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A Small First Step on Nuclear Safety

The Nuclear Safety Bill is only a beginning; there is a long way to go before public interest is protected.

In the aftermath of Fukushima, it should be obvious that strict and effective regulation is an absolutely minimal necessary condition for building and operating nuclear power facilities. Regulation of the nuclear sector in India, however, has always been subject to severe conflicts of interest. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the organisation that currently oversees nuclear and radiation safety, is administratively and financially under the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

It is to the credit of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, which otherwise has a reputation for inaction, that it has moved quickly to fulfil Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise soon after Fukushima to strengthen the framework for nuclear safety regulation. The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill 2011, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha last week and has been sent to a parliamentary committee for deliberation, is a step in that direction although provisions of the bill raise many questions.

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