Atomic Energy Regulatory Board not Quite Subatomic

I wrote this article as an OP/ED in The Economic Times (19.04.2011)

You may access it at

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/8023331.cms?prtpage=1

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About ksparthasarathy

I am a former Secretary of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. I am a former Raja Ramanna Fellow in the Department of Atomic Energy. Free lance journalism is my hobby
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2 Responses to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board not Quite Subatomic

  1. Madan Joshi says:

    As you are aware that I also had been a part of regulatory process. But I feel the way AERB treats NPCIL is not the same with other private organizations such as many hospitals and other institutions, because NPCIL is a soft target being part of DAE. There are many high exposures occuring in the hospitals which you can see from the over-exposure committee for non-DAE organizations. The affected persons do not respond to the questions asked by these committees and neither they report for CA tests when asked. The doses are made genuine or non-genuine without any in-depth investigations. The condition of X-ray units at many of small hospitals in our country are in pathetic situations. Mayapuri incident has truly exposed the way AERB has control on non-power agencies. If I may recall a meeting called by Late Shri P.N. Krishnamoorthy, then Deputy Director of DRP in 1971 [when I had just joined the department] whereby he had a great plan to regulate the non-DAE institutions also. Alas, after serving for 37 years I have retired and Mr. PNK is no more but the situation has not improved, always AERB citing excuse of shortage of man-power and now they want it to be done by some state agencies, which we know how they function in may of our notorious staes.

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  2. The important point is that there were violations which warranted action by AERB. That there were violations is not a credit either to the regulator or to the regulated organization

    The purpose of my article was to correct the impression that AERB is just a handmaiden of DAE. Within the limited space available I listed some of the regulatory actions taken by AERB against NPCIL.

    When it comes to violations, there is no soft target or hard target!

    AERB has also taken actions against many non DAE institutions such as hospitals ans industrial radiography institutions, In some cases the latter went to court against AERB. In all cases AERB won.

    There is a general impression that medical x-ray units are exposing patients to very high doses. This is not true. A detailed study funded by AERB showed that all except one medical diagnostic x-ray procedure expose the patients to doses with in the “Guidance levels” recommended by IAEA. But we know that achieving this is just not enough. Since India is considered as a country with advanced technologies, we must improve. We must ensure that the doses are optimum. Whatever measures AERB has taken are not adequate. Admittedly this is a humongous task

    Decentralization is one of the steps to improve effectiveness. As health is in the concurrent list, State Governments have an important part to play.

    Mayapuri incident was caused by the negligent action of a delinquent licensee. It may not be fair to base the regulator’s effectiveness on that alone. You may recall that orphan sources have created havoc in many countries. US NRC stated that a few hundred sources are lost annually in USA.

    PNK was the mentor to many. His plan to centralize regulation of all installations (both DAE and non DAE) under an Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority was ready in 1971. That was one of the ideas of Dr Sarabhai , Dr Sethna did not endorse. But the present AERB was formed in Nov 1983 based on the recommendations of a committee Dr Sethna set up in 1979.

    I under stand that AERB is concentrating on institutions which deserve to be brought under licensing category as per the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules 2004. These include CT Units and X-ray equipment used in interventional radiology.

    In so far as the fulfillment of regulatory requirements in letter and spirit are concerned many non DAE institutions may score over DAE Units. That topic merit wider discussion and is not relevant in the present context

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