India wants more international collaboration for nuclear safety

The IAEA must also facilitate access to utilities, without extraneous considerations, to the best nuclear safety technology and expertise that is available worldwide, India's Atomic Energy Commission chairman S. Banerjee told an IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety at Vienna Monday, an official statement said here Tuesday.

"The IAEA should work towards fostering international cooperation in design of innovative reactor with inherent safety systems through INPRO (International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles) programme and undertake immediate review of the safety standards in the light of the lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi events (in Japan in March 2011)," Banerjee said.

He reiterated that India would pursue its ongoing nuclear energy programme with full regard to the safety, livelihood and security of the people since nuclear energy remains an important element in the country’s energy basket to sustain rapid economic growth.

"India, firmly committed to its 3-stage nuclear programme based on the closed fuel cycle, has planned a major expansion of nuclear energy in the coming decades, from the current level of 4,780 MW to a level of 20,000 MW by 2020 and a project growth to about 60,000 MW in the early 2030s," said Banerjee, who heads the Indian delegation at the meet.

He said that nuclear safety should encompass the entire spectrum of activities, including the site, design, construction, commissioning, operation and periodic upgradation.

“We have focussed on defence in depth, diversity, redundancy and introduction of passive systems. We have also introduced some innovative measures at our nuclear plants based on our unique experiences,” Banerjee said.

“While our nuclear safety track record has been impeccable over 335 reactor years of operation, we recognize that there is no room for complacency. Our effort has been to achieve continuous improvement and innovation in nuclear safety - 'safety first, production next' - being the basic principle,” Banerjee asserted.

He said that immediately after the Fukushima accident in March, the Indian government ordered a through review of the safety of Indian nuclear power plants.

Accordingly, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board have launched a formal investigation into this aspect.

While detailed reviews are underway, some immediate enhancement measures have already been identified for implementation, Banerjee said.

Besides this, Banerjee said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently underlined that safety of nuclear power plants is a matter of highest priority while implementing the national nuclear programme.

“Several decisions have been taken in this regard which include further strengthening of the regulatory system through necessary legislation, greater transparency, improved emergency response and preparedness, as well as inviting relevant IAEA peer review missions," Banerjee remarked.

While recognising that nuclear safety is a national responsibility, there is no doubt that much can be done to strengthen international cooperation in this area, and existing mechanisms should be fully utilized as a first priority, Banerjee urged.

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