Wary of a repeat of a Fukushima-like mishap in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday reviewed the country’s disaster preparedness. The prime minister, who is also the chairman of National Disaster Management Authority, also directed government agencies to upgrade safety measures at all nuclear installations.
“The prime minister has reviewed the safety of nuclear installations in the country and has directed authorities to review safety measures in the light of experience in the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan . These directions are being acted upon. The prime minister also reviewed the safety measure being undertaken by the Department of Atomic Energy, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited in respect of nuclear facilities and asked them to look at beyond-design-basis accidents, as in Fukushima.
Our nuclear plants are safe. There are many in-built mechanism in the nuclear sites to avoid any disaster. The prime minister is fully satisfied about the safety facilities. However, we have to take more steps to strengthen our preparedness to deal with any emergency,” National Disaster Management Authority Vice-Chairman Shashidhar Reddy said.
He said the prime minister is satisfied with the safety measures for India’s 20 operational nuclear reactors. However, Singh is understood to have asked that additional measures suggested by the four panels set up by Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board be implemented in a time bound manner. The AERB will take a final view on the manner in which the recommendations are to be implemented.
Even though the government has been looking into the issue of terror threats and the possibility of terrorists getting hold of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, these were not taken up at Wednesday’s review meeting. Reddy assured that terror issues were being given highest attention by the government. “There are different platforms to deal with the terror issues. It gets highest attention of the leadership of the country,” he said.
The NDMA vice-chairman stressed that “the meeting only dealt with issues that may be the fall-out of a disaster, be it natural or man-made, and the preparedness of the disaster management agencies to tackle evacuation, isolation and containment and medical emergencies.”
The prime minister discussed new measures such as installing hi-tech radiation measuring gadgets in 35 cities across India. The Health Ministry has been identified as the nodal agency for implementing guidelines developed by the NDMA. Economic Times