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Jairam: Time for independent AERB

At a time when concerns are being expressed over safety of the country’s nuclear power plants,Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | New Delhi |
March 19, 2011 3:04:11 am

At a time when concerns are being expressed over safety of the country’s nuclear power plants,Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday came up with the suggestion that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board be converted into an independent statutory body,completely delinked from the Department of Atomic Energy to which it currently reports.

The AERB is the regulator in the field of atomic energy and is responsible for ensuring the safety of all the nuclear installations in the country.

“It is probably time to have an independent regulatory authority which is separate from the Department of Atomic Energy,something on the lines of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States. I think there would be greater public confidence about issues of nuclear safety in that case,” Jairam told The Indian Express.

His comments assume significance in the light of the controversy surrounding the upcoming nuclear power station at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. The radiological impact assessment carried out by the AERB for that plant has been questioned by the critics on the grounds that there was a conflict of interest since AERB was part of the same nuclear establishment which was setting up the plant.

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However,AERB is the only body in the country with the expertise to assess the radiological impact from any nuclear activity. The agency that carried out the environmental impact assessment for Jaitapur project — the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute — had expressed its inability to assess radiological impacts.

Jairam said there were several compelling reasons why AERB has remained associated with the DAE since its inception. “But as the nuclear power sector expands rapidly,may be we need to look at different options including separating the two. But these are complex strategic decisions,” he said.

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