Environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday agreed that there was a conflict of interest in regulating nuclear radiation issues in India but said the government will have to take a final call depending on strategic and security issues involved.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NCPIL) is entrusted with the job to set up nuclear plants in India whereas Atomic Energy Board is the regulatory looking at safety aspects and radiation related pollution.
Both these organizations are under the Department of Atomic Energy of the Central government.
This conflict of interest issue has cropped after independent experts questioned safety of Indian nuclear plants and future of 9,900 MW nuclear in Jaitapur in Maharashtra following radiation leaks in nuclear plants in Japan.
The radiation impact of the Jaitapur plant was not covered in the Environment Impact Assessment and is now being looked after by the Atomic Energy Board.
"We will review the environment clearance once board examines the radiation pollution aspect. Overall, safety of the plant is not the domain of my ministry," Ramesh said.
To make his point clear on regulatory conflict of interest Ramesh said the commissioner of Railway safety, who clears all rail projects including Delhi Metro, is under the administrative control of the civil aviation ministry and not railways.
Railways had wanted the commissioner to be under its administrative control but the government had rejected the idea for the last 40 years.
Last year, the government agreed with Ramesh on another area of conflict of interest when it transferred the administrative control of the proposed biotechnology regulator from the Department of Bio-Technology, whose mandate is to promote biotechnology, to the Department of Science and Technology.
The government has proposed an overarching regulator for the biotechnology sector including Genetically Modified crops to take the regulatory work away from the environment ministry. And, after initial resistance the government agreed with Ramesh.
Having a similar principle applicable for nuclear installations is not easy as there are not many experts on nuclear science outside the organizations under the Department of Atomic Energy.
But, many countries using nuclear power have an independent regulator for nuclear installations.
European Union has clear directive that the nuclear regulation should be independent of the utility settling up a nuclear installation.