India to ask IAEA for review of its nuclear regulatory process

India is planning to approach the global atomic watchdog IAEA for a review of its nuclear regulatory process which has come under severe criticism from the government auditor and activists.

“Preparation and planning for inviting IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) for peer review of our regulatory system is also in progress,” Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Ratan Kumar Sinha said at the 56th General Conference of IAEA in Vienna.

Sinha said India would approach the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in “due course” with a request to undertake a review of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

India had announced the IRRS and Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission as part of measures to instill public confidence in nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The first OSART mission is planned between October 29 and November 15 at the units 3&4 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) at Rawat Bhata.

Sinha told the gathering of top nuclear scientists and administrators that India would soon commission the first 1,000 MW unit of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project which is being developed with Russian collaboration.

He said construction of four indigenously designed 700 MWe Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors - two each at existing sites of Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbhata in Rajasthan - is on schedule and these will be progressively completed by 2017.

The Comptroller and Auditor General ( CAG), in a recent report, had dubbed AERB as a weak regulator which had failed to prepare a nuclear safety policy for India in the three decades of its existence.

Sinha said India has also stepped up exploration of uranium across the country and has identified new resources of the key mineral.

“In the last five years, our reserves have registered a steep increase of about 70 per cent,” he said.

The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research had recently found uranium deposits in Rajasthan, taking the identified uranium ore resources across the country to 1.84 lakh tonnes.

Giving a glimpse of research underway in India, Sinha said scientists were exploring the possibility of using nanofluids as an alternate coolant for water-cooled reactors.

“Experiments on natural circulation and heat transfer behaviour of nanofluids have shown distinct advantages even with a trace concentration of nanoparticles in water,” he said.

Sinha said India has also initiated a programme to pursue a roadmap on physics studies and stage-wise technology development for Accelerator Driven Systems, which use a self-sustaining thorium fuel cycle for power generation.

Sharing details of studies in high level natural radiation area (HLNRA), he said there is no significant difference between the populations belonging to such areas and normal radiation level area with respect to the frequency of congenital malformations, Down Syndrome and still-births.

Certain areas in Kerala have radiation fields in the range from less than 1 mGy/year to 45 mGy/year, against the global average of approximately 2.4 mGy/year from natural sources of radiation.

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