You are here

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Sivanandan MS asked: What are the safety measures that are taken to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants in India?

    S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Such measures include physical protection of plants and radioactive material as well as adopting and executing global standards in the running of these plants. The latter includes incorporating design features to ensure safety of the plants during normal operations as well as to effectively tide over the ill-effects of possible natural events like floods, tsunamis among other disasters. These could include situating back-up generators at a greater height (especially pertinent in the aftermath of Fukushima) or increasing the height of protective walls or in-built design features to ensure ‘cool’ running of the plants among other efforts.

    The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), established in 1983, is responsible for regulating the functioning of all nuclear power plants in India. To make functioning of the plants more independent, the government in 2011 has put into motion the required measures to establish the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA), which will subsume the work of the AERB.

    In recent times, the complementarities and mutually reinforcing nature of safety and security measures at nuclear power plants and of materials is being emphasised (two of ‘S’ trilogy, the other being safeguards). India appreciates this fact and is a party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, entered into force in 1987, as well as its 2005 Amendment which was ratified by India in 2007. India also supports the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

    Political Decision-Making and Nuclear Retaliation

    Currently, India's nuclear doctrine is one of inflicting ‘unacceptable damage’ in case of nuclear first use against it or its forces anywhere. The problem with this is that at current levels of vertical proliferation it is liable to face a counter strike of equal proportions. This may not be in India's interests when viewed in relation to the inevitable setback to its trajectory of progress. Therefore, there is a case for terminating nuclear exchanges at the lowest possible level in case of nuclear first use of low opprobrium quotient or violence.

    July 2012

    Deterrence in the Shadow of Terror: US Nuclear Weapons Policy in the Aftermath of 9/11

    Deterrence in the Shadow of Terror: US Nuclear Weapons Policy in the Aftermath of  9/11

    The paper assesses that in the aftermath of 9/11, efforts to improve and sustain the potency of US nuclear arsenal are far more pertinent than efforts to reduce their salience.

    Ajai Vir asked: What is the difference between Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Security? Which one should have higher priority?

    S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Nuclear Safety primarily refers to the measures taken to ensure the well-being of power reactors and other civilian uses of nuclear energy. Nuclear Security on the other hand refers to measures taken to prevent the misuse of nuclear/radiological materials/weapons including physical protection of sources, among others.

    Both have the common purpose of ensuring that the negative effects of nuclear materials/technologies on society and environment are prevented. Both should have equal priority depending on the nature of the threat, technologies being used, among other pertinent factors.

    Issues of nuclear safety came into prominence after the Chernobyl meltdown. Organisations like World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) were formed to help ensure uniform standards in civilian nuclear plant operations, improved safety procedures, among others. Issues of nuclear security came into prominence in the aftermath of 9/11. Events like the Nuclear Security Summit have sought to focus attention on these aspects. The IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund (NSF) is another prominent initiative, in which India is a significant partner.

    Shijith Kumar asked : Why ‘nuclear liability rules ultra vires’?

    Reshmi Kazi replies: In the given context, rule 24 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules, 2011, prescribes the time limit of 5 years to resort to the option of “right of recourse”. However, the contradiction appears when the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010 mentions no such time limit. To that extent, the rule is ultra vires to the Act and thereby invalid.

    Rule 24 stipulates limits in two ways:

    • with regard to the amount for which suppliers can be held liable by way of recourse, and
    • the number of years for which such liability can be imposed.

    Rule 24 does this by imposing limits on the option of recourse to a position which is clearly permitted by Section 17(a) of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act. It thus seeks to bypass both Section 17(b) and any effect Section 46 (under which a victim of a nuclear accident could bring a liability claim against the operator under Tort Law and include the supplier also as co-defendant) may have on supplier liability, rather than directly limit these provisions. At the same time, a rule is a subsidiary legislation to the corresponding Act. Thus, it is imperative that the rule must be in tandem with the Act.

    The New US-North Korea Nuclear Understanding

    The real test of the latest deal will be when the IAEA inspectors visit North Korea’s nuclear facility and file their report on the moratorium.

    March 14, 2012

    Iran in the Israeli Calculus

    Israel is likely to calculate that it would better to wait and use diplomacy to push the major global and regional powers towards some kind of a joint venture against the much feared nuclear designs of Iran.

    March 13, 2012

    India and West Asian Political Tensions

    There is a real danger that India’s strategic space in West Asia could be further constricted due to the rising political tensions on account of the Iranian nuclear imbroglio.

    February 16, 2012

    How Accurate is the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index?

    While the project that produced the Report engaged some credible scholars from western universities and elsewhere, but the control and leadership exercised on the project by known non-proliferation activists may have sent a wrong signal to the non-western world.

    January 24, 2012

    Shijith Kumar asked: What is the nature and trend of the nuclear diplomacy post-Fukushima?

    A. Vinod Kumar replies: Presume the questioner refers to the global diplomatic efforts to redress concerns on nuclear safety and issues pertaining to the growth of nuclear energy, post-Fukushima. One could recall that the immediate fallout of the Fukushima incident was the apprehensions over the nuclear safety amid natural calamities and accidents, and a consequent impact in some countries pursuing nuclear energy. While a few countries like Germany and Sweden, which were contemplating a revival of nuclear energy, decided to discard those plans; in countries like India, where a surge of nuclear energy was being anticipated, a wave of protests have emerged against nuclear expansion. Similarly, in Japan, various groups have been pressuring the government to shut down nuclear plants.

    Japan’s response to these protests intrinsically explains the global diplomacy on nuclear energy expansion and safety issues. While working on local protests, Japan has continued to back its companies in getting contracts to build new plants in countries like Indonesia and Turkey, besides keeping a solid eye on burgeoning nuclear energy markets like India. The same could apply to most countries with major economic growth trajectories which would need sustainable sources of electricity and clean fuel. Even countries like Germany, which is the European economic powerhouse, are expected to fall back on nuclear energy to meet their industrial needs.

    While Fukushima disaster is attributed to a flawed coolant pumping system, the incident has prompted the IAEA to further enhance global safety templates at nuclear plants. Countries like India have undertaken a review of the safety standards of existing facilities and are preparing enhanced standards of safety for new facilities to match up to the expected natural and man-made disasters.