IAEA team completes review of Indian regulator

27 March 2015

A peer review of India's nuclear regulatory framework has found a strong commitment to nuclear safety in the country but recommends that the independence of its nuclear regulator be strengthened.

The IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team, led by Ramzi Jammal of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, made the remarks in preliminary findings at the end of a 12-day mission to India including interviews, discussions and site visits. The review was carried out at the invitation of the Indian government by a team comprising experts from the nuclear regulatory bodies of Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, the USA and the UK as well as IAEA experts.

Jammal described the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) as an "experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated regulatory body" which continues to enhance its regulatory program to face current and future challenges such as reinforcing the safety of existing nuclear facilities and monitoring plant ageing and decommissioning, as well as providing oversight of the construction, commissioning and operation of new nuclear power plants.

The IRRS team identified good practices, including India's well-established national educational and training system, the regulator's continuous enhancement of its regulatory framework and processes, its research and development infrastructure and its recruitment and training program.

However, the mission also provided recommendations and suggestions for improvement, many at the governmental level. The government should promulgate a national policy and strategy for safety and a strategy for radioactive waste management, it said. The team also recommended that the Indian government ensure that the AERB's independence is embedded in law, ensuring its separation from other entities that could unduly influence the regulator's decision making. The AERB itself should also review its policy and arrangements to ensure it maintains independence in its regulatory functions, the mission said.

The regulator should also consider increasing the frequency of on-site inspections and should develop and implement its own internal emergency arrangements, the reviewers found.

In a statement, the AERB said it had accepted the review team's suggestions and recommendations "as an opportunity to enhance the regulatory framework" and had already started work on a detailed action plan to address them.

The mission's final report will be provided to the Indian government in about three months.

The IAEA offers the IRRS as a peer review service to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of national nuclear regulatory infrastructures whilst recognizing the ultimate responsibility of each state to ensure safety in these areas. An IRRS mission is preceded by a pre-mission phase including a self-assessment by the regulator under review. A follow-up mission allows the host country and IRRS review team to assess progress in implementing any recommendations and suggestions, as well as providing an opportunity to identify additional technical and policy issues for review, to identify further good practices and provide input for the review of IAEA safety standards.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News