Thursday, 30 August 2012

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and CAG reccos

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board was constituted in 1983 to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions under the Atomic Energy Act, and  the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The mission of the Board is to ensure that the use of ionizing radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to health and the environment.
A committee was set up in 1987 with Shri V.N. Meckoni as Chairman to review the functions and responsibilities of AERB. The functions and responsibilities of AERB were broadened considerably. 

In August 2012, the CAG reviewed AERB and noted many shortcomings. Given below are the functions of the AERB and the related criticisms of the CAG. Criticisms given in red


Develop safety policies in both radiation and industrial safety areas.

  • AERB has not prepared a nuclear and radiation safety policy for the country despite receiving a specific mandate to do so in the order constituting the Board as far back as 1983.
Develop Safety Codes, Guides and Standards for siting, design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning of different types of nuclear and radiation facilities.
  • The Board had yet to develop 27 out of the 168 safety documents despite recommendations made by two panels in 1987 and 1997 that the process of developing safety documents be expedited.
  • Even 13 years after the AERB issued the safety manual about decommissioning of nuclear power plants, none of the plants, including those operating for 30 years and those which had been shut down, had a decommissioning plan.
Grant consents for establishment of nuclear and radiation facilities, after an appropriate safety review and assessment.
  • The consenting process and the system of monitoring and renewal of licenses for the different radiation facilities in the country were “weak”. “This led to a substantial number of units of radiation facilities operating without valid licenses. 
  • Specifically, the CAG observed that 91 per cent of the medical x-ray facilities in the country were not registered with the AERB and that despite a Supreme Court directive issued in 2001 requiring the setting up of Directorate of Radiation Safety in every State, such agencies had so far been set up only in Kerala and Mizoram. 
  • The Board had not conducted 85 per cent of the regulatory inspections for both industrial radiography and radiotherapy units and that there was a shortfall of over 97 per cent in the inspection in the case of diagnostic radiology facilities. the AERB has not prescribed any frequency for such regulatory inspections.
Ensure compliance of the regulatory requirements prescribed by AERB.
  • The AERB did not have a detailed inventory of all radiation sources to ensure effective compliance of regulations for safe disposal of disused sources. 
  • There were no proper mechanisms in place to ensure/verify that: radioactive waste had actually been disposed of safely after utilisation

Prescribe the acceptance limits of radiation exposure to occupational workers and members of the public and approve acceptable limits of environmental releases of radioactive substances.

  • AERB not having a direct role in conducting independent assessments and monitoring to ensure radiological protection of those working in nuclear power plants. In India, the responsibility of monitoring radiological exposure and conducting radiological surveillance of the plants lies with their operators — the Nuclear Power Corporation of India — and not the AERB.
Review of the emergency preparedness plans for nuclear and radiation facilities.
  • CAG also urged the AERB to be closely associated with on-site emergency preparedness conducted in nuclear power plants. At present the AERB only reviewed the reports of the exercises (conducted by the power plants themselves) and did not directly associate itself in these exercises, even as observers.
  • The report noted that at the Tarapur atomic power station there was no proper approach road between the tehsildar’s office and the plant site, and that over the years population had increased manifold in the emergency zone due to large scale industrial activities in the area. “These bottlenecks would pose serious impediments to speedy responses for rescue of affected people in case of any emergency,” the report warned.
Safety reviews for transport of large radioactive sources, irradiated fuel and fissile material.

Review of the training program, qualifications and licensing policies for personnel of nuclear and radiation facilities.
Keep the public informed on major issues of radiological safety significance.
Promote research and development efforts in the areas of safety.

Maintain liaison with statutory bodies in the country as well as abroad regarding safety matters.
  • Although the AERB maintained liaisons with the international nuclear organisation, it was “slow’’ in adopting international benchmarks and good practices. “The AERB had not yet availed of the opportunity of the peer review and appraisal services of the IAEA to get its regulatory framework and its effectiveness reviewed by them.

To address all these lacunae, the GoI should expedite the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill. 

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