Even as protests continue at Kudankulam, sources here said the government had for the first time agreed to allow an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team to conduct safety review of two atomic power plants located in Rajasthan.
“Public confidence has to be built by transparency. We are getting legislation to strengthen regulatory bodies and as a related measure the IAEA’s Operational Safety Review Team [OSART] will visit Rajasthan in November. India will study its report and take on board suggestions. The government’s position is that more needs to be done on safety aspects,’’ added the sources.
The OSART, set up 30 years ago, will conduct a follow-up review after about two years to find out how many of its recommendations were accepted and implemented by the authorities, and the findings will be made public. Following the March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in Japan, India voluntarily decided last year to allow the OSART to inspect units 3 and 4 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station at Rawatbhatta, one of which had developed a leak that affected four workers.
The sources expect the team to share its experiences of reviewing safety at other plants across the world. Another IAEA team, the Integrated Regulatory Review Services (IRRS), has not yet been invited and could come after India tightens up laws related to regulatory bodies.
Impact of Fukushima
The sources admitted that the post-Fukushima debate on nuclear safety has had a deep impact on global public discussions on nuclear energy. It was not appropriate to underestimate the breadth of concerns, but it was equally important to put the debate in perspective and not mix views on two or three interrelated issues.
While Germany has decided to wean itself off nuclear energy due to the consistent stand taken by the Green Party, and Italy and Switzerland are also backing off due to related reasons, the government here believes there is no alternative to nuclear energy. “So the three stage programme continues. But that doesn’t mean India won’t take additional steps to build and restore public confidence in safety issues relating to nuclear energy,’’ they said.