Thursday, 30 August 2012

Report warns of India nuclear power safety
23 Aug 2012

NEW DELHI, Aug. 23 (UPI)--An Indian government auditing agency criticized India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board for not being truly autonomous and for its lack of a radiation safety policy. India's Comptroller and Auditor General, in a report released Wednesday, warned that a Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster could occur in India if the government doesn't address nuclear safety, NDTV reports.

While AERB is responsible for supervising safety issues for the plants, it doesn't have power to make rules, enforce compliance or impose penalty in cases of nuclear safety oversight, the report states. No legislative framework is in place for decommissioning of nuclear power plants, says CAG. Furthermore, AERB doesn't have a mandate other than the prescribing of codes, guides and safety manuals on decommissioning.

The report says that in the 13 years since AERB's safety manual was issued, "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". India's 20 nuclear plants have an installed capacity of 4,780 MWs. The government aims to generate 20,000 MWs of power from nuclear power by 2020. But proposed construction sites have faced fierce opposition from locals and activists.

The auditing agency also said that AERB had no radiation safety policy in place. "At the policy level, AERB has not yet prepared a radiation safety policy even after three decades of its existence. Standard setting is an essential part of the functions of a regulatory authority", the report said. AERB Secretary R. Bhattacharya told the publication Livemint that "there's no document that says 'Radiation Safety Policy,' but we have detailed codes and guides on managing ionising and non-ionising radiation". "It's at the core of what we do", Bhattacharya said.

Independent experts say changes are necessary at AERB. "The formation of AERB has never been an open, transparent process", Livemint quoted M.P. Ram Mohan, a fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute and a nuclear policy researcher, as saying. "Also, a law to manage hazardous nuclear waste has been in draft discussions for years now. Hopefully, CAG's report could trigger some action".

NTPC, the country's largest power producer, separately announced this week that it has put on hold its plans to set up nuclear power projects jointly with Nuclear Power Corporation of India, reports The Hindu newspaper. An unnamed NTPC official in The Hindu report said around 40 engineers from NPCIL's Mumbai office who were being trained to build nuclear plants have been relocated to NTPC's thermal power plants.