[My comments follow this article from the WNA--DW]
A parliamentary report on nuclear safety regulation in India has pointed out serious organisational flaws and numerous failings relative to international norms.A basic tenet of nuclear power regulation - as recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and implemented in most countries - is that the safety regulator must be independent of industry and government. It can then make autonomous decisions based purely on ensuring the proper level of care for public safety in a legal policy framework - but absent from either political or commercial interference.
The report submitted to parliament by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India concerns the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which reports to the policy-setting Atomic Energy Commission.
The most fundamental issue highlighted by the report was the unsatisfactory legal status and authority of the AERB. Despite India's international commitments, awareness of best practice and internal expert recommendations, the report said, "the legal status of AERB continued to be that of an authority subordinate to the central government, with powers delegated to it by the latter."
[The structure of the regulatory regime in India is as a follows:Commnets:
At top is the Atomic Energy Commission. Below that are two entities: Dept. of Atomic Energy (which builds and runs the industry) and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (which initiates, reviews and implements all regulations)--DW.]
In AERB's case its flawed mandate has resulted in it not having the authority to effectively write the rules on nuclear and radiation safety. The AERB never fulfilled a requirement officially handed down in 1983 to prepare an overall nuclear and radiation safety policy, which would have given structure to practical radiation safety planning at lower levels. The report complained that the AERB has no role in determining the size of fines for breaches of the rules, and no power of its own to impose any fines.
Medicine and industry
The most serious resulting problems relate to ensuring the safe use of radiation in medical and industrial facilities across India. In 2001 the AERB was ordered by the Supreme Court to set up radiation safety directorates in 35 administrative areas, but by July 2012 it had achieved this in only two. It had also failed to frame rules for cost recovery from licensees and was therefore bearing almost the entire cost of the consent process for permitting and inspection. The consent system itself has been "weak", resulting in "a substantial number of radiation facilities operating without licences." The report said that 91% of X-ray facilities were not registered with AERB and were therefore unregulated.
The AERB has never set out standard inspection periods for radiation facilities and the comptroller's report noted an 85% shortfall in inspections at industrial radiography and radiotherapy units, compared to IAEA norms. For diagnostic radiobiology facilities the shortfall was "over 97%". There is no detailed inventory of radioactive sources to help ensure safe disposal and no "proper mechanism" to check the safe disposal of radioactive waste.
Although managers at the country's seven nuclear power plants were making plans for emergency situations, the AERB had no role in the process and only reviewed reports of emergency exercises without taking part. When the exercises highlighted inadequacies, the regulator had no power to compel a nuclear operator to implement improvements.
Other abnormalities in Indian regulation include the lack of a requirement for nuclear power plant owners to have decommissioning plans and secured funds for the work. The Indian state nuclear establishment has not drawn on the services of the IAEA to peer-review its regulatory system and comment on its effectiveness.
The comptroller concluded that the government should ensure the regulator is "empowered and independent" and that this is specified in law. It should be given the necessary authority in setting regulations, verifying compliance and enforcement when necessary. The outstanding nuclear and radiation safety policy should be completed, as should certain outstanding regulatory codes. Inspection regimes should be set out based on risk analyses and checks should be undertaken "in terms of the norms prescribed by IAEA."
Regarding nuclear power plants, the AERB should be "more closely associated with on-site emergency exercises" and the government should set clear timelines for NPCIL to "prepare and obtain approval for decommissioning plans."
The comptroller noted that the Department of Atomic Energy acknowledged the concerns highlighted in the report, but offered "no specific assurances giving timelines within which our recommendations would be acted upon."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News
It's clear that the situation in India today regarding nuclear energy is flawed in terms of it's safety regime. Combining this will rampant public corruption that is endemic throughout India's civil service, a recipe for disaster is in the works (by "disaster" I mean the possible death of the publicly held nuclear industry there by massive public opposition to this form of energy due to lack of confidence by the public. Also, and more importantly, even one medium to serious radiation release due to such corruption would certainly kill non-carbon energy source).
It is unclear from the report how bad corruption is and at what levels. Perhaps none, but unlikely there is none, as I noted before, it's endemic there. So this report as a first step and is vitally important in terms of tightening up safety and developing the safety culture that most nuclear infrastructure function under in the rest of the world today.
India is heading for 25% of it's massively growing grid to be nuclear. I endorse this and in fact think it should be...most of the grid. But it can't be with the way regulations have been functioning given the current growth of new nuclear plants there. A political collision course between the Indian nation and the public power nuclear industry is in the making.
What help would be for India's unionized nuclear work force to be integrated into the management with 100% autonomy with regards to workers control over safety. Such a safety regimen coming from the operators, mechanics, technicians and engineers could act as a counter-weight to the bureaucratic lethargy which seemingly is infecting the management side of regulations. More on this in another post.