Nuclear regulation bill introduced to Indian parliament

09 September 2011

A bill to set up a new national nuclear authority and other regulatory bodies to oversee radiation and nuclear safety has been introduced to India's lower house, the Lok Sabha.  


The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill was drawn up in response to events at Fukushima and aims to establish several new regulatory bodies. A new Council of Nuclear Safety (CNS) would oversee and review policies on radiation safety, nuclear safety and other connected matters. Chaired by the prime minister, the CNS would be made up of various government ministers, with the cabinet secretary and head of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as ex-officio members, plus government-nominated "eminent experts".

The second major body to be established would be called the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) and would be responsible for ensuring radiation safety and nuclear safety in all civilian sector nuclear activities. The NSRA's officers would consist of a chairperson, two full-time members and up to four part-time members, all experts in one or more nuclear or other "relevant" discipline, appointed for three-year terms. In the wording of the bill presented to the Lokh Sabah, the NSRA would be "autonomous in the exercise of its powers and functions."

The NSRA would subsume and supersede the existing Indian nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which is currently responsible for the regulation and licensing of all India's nuclear facilities. The AERB's current chair and members would take on the corresponding roles in the NSRA until new officers are appointed.

In a statement made in the Lok Sabah only days after the Japanese plants were struck by the devastating tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh promised to strengthen India's nuclear safety regulatory framework. The government announced in April that it would draw up a new nuclear safety law to create an autonomous regulatory body.

The AERB and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), which encompasses all the government-owned enterprises involved in India's nuclear power industry, are both part of the AEC. The independence of the regulator has therefore been brought into question, especially in the light of Fukushima: the location of the Japanese regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), within the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade (METI) has been seen as giving it an insufficient level of independence and fostering a potential conflict of interest for METI as both promoter and regulator of nuclear energy.

The proposed bill also provides for the government to set up other regulatory bodies to take responsibility for nuclear activities related to defence and national security.

Researched and written

by World Nuclear News