Government introduces new nuclear safety bill in Parliament

The government on Wednesday introduced the nuclear safety regulatory authority bill in Parliament, under which it will be able to exempt any facility, premises or radioactive material from inspection on grounds of national defence and security.

Seeking to increase public confidence in nuclear energy, the bill will establish a legal framework to regulate nuclear and radiation safety and an authority to carry out the task. The proposed regulator will replace the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

The bill allows the government to establish other regulatory bodies as well for facilities that are earmarked for defence purposes. The purpose seems to be exclude India's strategic programme from the authority's safety planning and policy ambit.

Under clause 25, the government can establish "one or more regulatory bodies", even while promising to ensure that the use of "radiation and atomic energy is safe for workers, members of the public and the environment".

The bill's provisions enabling the government to set regulatory bodies apart from the nuclear safety and regulatory authority are meant to shield the strategic programme while promising to implement stringent safety measures in all matters relating to use of atomic energy.

The mandate of the authority, which will report to Parliament, is to implement policies and programmes for radiation safety, ensure high quality management, maintain transparency, keep the public informed of rules and limits of radiation exposure, develop standards and give consents for nuclear activity.