New Delhi: Observing that Pakistan and a number of other countries had conferred legal status to their nuclear regulators, the CAG on Wednesday questioned the delay in according similar rights to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
"...The legal status of the AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the Central Government, with powers delegated to it by the latter," the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report on the performance audit of the AERB.
The auditor said there was an urgent need for the government to bolster the status of AERB if it was to qualify as an independent regulator in a sector which was likely to become increasingly important in meeting the country`s energy needs.
The auditor also pulled up the nuclear regulator for failing to prepare any safety policy for the country even after three decades of its existence.
"Out of the 168 standards, codes and guides identified by AERB for development under various thematic areas, 27 safety documents still remained to be developed...," said the report which was tabled in Parliament today.
It said two committees set up by the government had asked the AERB to expedite development of the safety documents.
"There were significant delays in development of the safety documents test-checked in audit," the CAG report said.
The report said without the legal status, the AERB neither has the authority for framing or revising rules relating to nuclear and radiation safety nor can it decide on the quantum of penalties leave alone imposing them.
The report said off-site emergency exercises highlighted
the inadequate emergency preparedness to deal with situations involving radiological effects from a nuclear power plant which may extend to public areas.
"Further, AERB was not empowered to secure compliance of corrective measures suggested by it," the audit report said.
It was found that the approach road to the plant site of Tarapur Atomic Power Station was highly congested, which would pose serious problems in dealing with any future emergency, it said.
The report said there was no legislative framework for decommissioning of nuclear power plants and the AERB did not have any mandate except prescribing of codes, guides and safety manuals on decommissioning.
"Even after the lapse of 13 years from the issue of the Safety Manual by AERB, none of the nuclear power plants in the country, including those operating for 30 years, and those which had been shut down, had any decommissioning plan," it said.
The report pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency had recognised the need for independence for regulatory bodies and a number of countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Pakistan and the US have conferred legal status to their respective bodies.
The government has introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (Bill), which seeks to provide statutory status to the nuclear regulator, in Parliament last year.
The AERB was constituted through an executive order in 1983 and reports to the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
AEC Chairman is also the Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, which is one of the bodies regulated by the AERB, resulting in conflict of responsibilities and interest, the CAG observed.