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IAEA Mission Finds Solid Regulatory Arrangements in India, Notes Areas for Improvement

Mumbai, India

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission said India’s regulator showed a strong commitment and professionalism to ensure nuclear and radiation safety in the country. The team also noted areas where improvements can be made to strengthen the radiation safety regulatory oversight programme for all facilities and activities using radiation sources.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a twelve- day follow-up mission to review progress in India’s implementation of recommendations and suggestions made during an initial IRRS mission in 2015, which covered regulatory activities in relation to the country’s nuclear power plants. The follow-up mission had an extended scope, also reviewing radiation sources. Such sources are used in facilities and in activities in the country in the field of research, industry, medicine and agriculture.

The follow-up mission was conducted at the request of the Government of India and hosted by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the country’s regulatory body. India has 22 nuclear reactors in operation in 7 plants, with a total installed capacity of 6,780 MW(e), contributing about 3.3% of total power generation in India. An additional eight reactors are under construction.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, based on IAEA safety standards and international good practices, while recognizing the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.

The team found that the AERB generally implements the regulatory process and safety requirements in accordance with the IAEA safety standards.

“The AERB has acted on all of the recommendations and suggestions of the initial mission of 2015 and, as a result, significant improvements have been made in many areas,” said Ramzi Jammal, Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer, Regulatory Operations Branch, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the IRRS team leader. “India and the AERB should take pride in the achievements they have accomplished, and we encourage the AERB to continue their improvements to ensure that the public, workers and the environment remain protected.”

The IRRS team, comprised of seven senior regulatory experts from Canada, Finland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States, and three IAEA staff members, conducted a series of interviews and discussions with AERB staff.

The IRRS team highlighted the positive work the AERB has done to integrate regulatory processes into an online platform, saying it significantly improved the efficiency of the processes to regulate radiation sources. The review team also welcomed actions taken which directly addressed the recommendations of the 2015 mission, including:

  • The improved inspection programme, including enhanced training and strengthening the powers of inspectors.
  • The updated staff qualification and training programmes aimed at building and maintaining expertise necessary for discharging its responsibilities.
  • The established process for regularly reviewing regulations and guides.

In their report, the team said it was important for the Government to ensure that the AERB has sufficient resources to continue their international engagement on the development of safety standards and the exchange of information on nuclear and radiation safety. They also made recommendations for improving the regulatory arrangements in the country, including:

  • The need for a systematic manner in how safety assessments are included in the license application.
  • Revision of the frequency of planned inspections and the duration of validity of regulatory consent in accordance with a graded approach.
  • Development of a national policy and strategy to define responsibilities in regaining control over orphan sources; and
  • The revision of regulations and guides, where appropriate, to ensure consistency with the IAEA safety standards and clarification of the hierarchy of the regulatory documents.

“We are pleased to see that our considerable efforts to strengthen the regulatory framework have been reflected in the draft mission report,” said Shri G. Nageswara Rao, Chairman of the AERB. “India will continue to focus on the identified areas in line with international safety standards.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months.

IAEA Safety Standards

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

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