While India has produced many “ready at hand” atomic experts, as nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha predicted in 1944, they have failed to address nuclear safety concerns.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pulled up the government last week for not implementing such a policy. Under the current system, the maximum penalty that can be levied on a nuclear plant operator for violating safety guidelines is a paltry 500 rupees.
The Japan Center for Economic Research has estimated that it could cost up to $250 billion for the clean-up at Fukushima, a nuclear crisis triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year. Considering this, the penalty in India for safety violations seems like a joke. Twenty-eight years since the Bhopal gas tragedy, the government is still struggling to deliver justice to victims of the disaster. Continuing under the current nuclear safety policy could lead to graver threats than Bhopal.
India’s nuclear ambitions and technology have been inspired by developed nations like France, Australia, Canada and the United States. But again, we have conveniently forgotten to ensure safety policies that these nations already have in place.
All these nations have an independent nuclear regulator unlike India and the CAG has raised concerns over the legal status of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).