The Prime Minister, who is also the atomic energy minister, must respond to this devastating CAG report in a responsible manner, announce a moratorium on all the nuclear activities all over India, set up an 'empowered and independent' regulatory authority, and most importantly, work for the welfare of the people of India rather than the corporations of the United States, Russia, France, and Australia.
WHILE THANKING the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the timely and comprehensive report entitled “Performance Audit on Activities of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (Department of Atomic Energy),” the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) calls for the immediate resignation of its Chairman Sri. S. S. Bajaj and for the complete disbanding of this ineffective and wasteful handmaiden-organization of the Indian nuclear establishment.
The PMANE stated that the CAG report aptly sums up that “AERB is on a very tenuous ground if it has to be judged in terms of benchmarks of what is expected of an independent regulator” who is supposed to deal with regulation, verification and enforcement of regulations.
As the report establishes correctly, “the legal status of AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the Central Government” and its Department of Atomic Energy. In fact, the DAE, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), and the AERB all function out of Mumbai and have offices at Anushaktinagar in Mumbai.
In fact, the CAG report finds the AERB’s performance not only dismal but pathetic in all areas of its operation. For instance, the report clearly records the disheartening fact that “AERB failed to prepare a nuclear and radiation safety policy for the country in spite of a specific mandate in its Constitution Order of 1983. The absence of such a policy at a macro level can hamper micro level planning of radiation safety in the country.”
More than this inordinate delay in the development of safety policy, it felt that the “consenting process and system for monitoring and renewal were found to be weak in respect of radiation facilities.” Consequently, our highly and densely populated country has enormous number of radiation facilities without valid licenses and our mostly illiterate and half-literate people have been at the mercy of these facilities and corrupt officials and politicians.
Even after the Supreme Court had directed the AERB in 2001 to set up a ‘Directorate of Radiation Safety (DRS)’ in each state for regulating X-ray installations, PMANE deplored that the DRS has been set up only in Kerala and Mizoram so far. AERB’s scant regards for the Judiciary and the Laws of the Land was demonstrated when they completely ignored the Madras High Court’s legal proceedings and gave permission for Initial Fuel Loading (IFL) at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project’s unit 1. They had given a written undertaking at the MHC that they would implement all the recommendations of the post-Fuklushima task force but conveniently forgot to do that before giving IFL permission to KKNPP.
The CAG report points out that AERB has not conducted 85 percent regulatory inspections for both industrial radiography and radiotherapy units. Obviously, the “AERB was not exercising effective regulatory oversight over units related to the health of the public.” Even worse, “AERB had failed to enforce safety provisions and compliance with its own stipulations even when its attention was specifically drawn to deficiencies in the case of units in Kerala.” Please note that this is in the most literate and political aware state of Kerala and one can easily imagine what AERB would have done in other backward states.
The PMANE lamented that the CAG report establishes that AERB does not have a detailed inventory of all radiation sources or proper mechanisms to ensure or verify that radioactive waste is disposed of safely. One may remember the Mayapuri incident in Delhi in which radioactive waste was found in a hawker shop in April 2010 and two people were killed due to radioactive exposure.
The CAG report also establishes the cruel fact that “off-site emergency exercises carried out (by AERB) highlighted inadequate emergency preparedness.” The recent off-site emergency exercise held at Nakkaneri hamlet near Koodankulam is a case in point. The AERB officials were actually present at this farce also.
The CAG report puts on record: “Even after the lapse of 13 years from the issue of the Safety Manual relating to decommissioning by AERB, none of the NPPs in the country, including those operating for 30 years and those which had been shut down, had a decommissioning plan.” When we asked the Central Government Team about the decommissioning plan for Koodankulam, their report simply said “provisions for facilitating decommissioning in KKNPP-1&2 have been made in the design” without giving details. The CAG has found out that AERB is “slow in adopting international benchmarks and good practices in the areas of nuclear and radiation operation.”
The CAG report has welcome recommendations that India needs a nuclear regulator who is “empowered and independent” and that a “nuclear and radiation safety policy may be framed in a time-bound manner.” Out of 27 codes and guides required for nuclear and radiation safety, AERB has developed only 11 and the rest need to be “developed expeditiously.”
In a typical DAE style, the DAE has “acknowledged the concerns” highlighted by the CAG without “specific assurances giving timelines within which our (CAG) recommendations would be acted upon.” In all probability, AERB would do nothing and simply dismiss the CAG report.
The PMANE demanded that the Prime Minister, who is also the atomic energy minister, must respond to this devastating CAG report in a responsible manner, announce a moratorium on all the nuclear activities all over India, set up an “empowered and independent” regulatory authority, and most importantly, work for the welfare of the people of India rather than the corporations of the United States, Russia, France and Australia etc.