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PM directs safety upgrades at all nuclear facilities

Wednesday June 01, 2011 05:31:42 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday reviewed India's disaster preparedness and directed government agencies to upgrade safety measures at all nuclear installations in the backdrop of Japan's nuclear plant leak following a tsunami and earthquake in March.

Manmohan Singh, who met government officials, nuclear scientists and disaster management authorities at his residence here, also took stock of earthquake and tsunami preparedness issues.

"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," National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Vice Chairman Shashidhar Reddy told reporters here after the meeting.

"The prime minister also reviewed the safety measure being undertaken by the Department of Atomic Energy, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Baba 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," Reddy said.

The meeting was also attended by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy, and Atomic Energy Commission chairman S. Banerjee, who made a presentation on the safety measures of nuclear plants.

Manmohan Singh, however, expressed satisfaction on the safety and security of India's 20 operational nuclear reactors.

"The prime minister is fully satisfied," Reddy said to a specific question.

Though the terror threats to India's nuclear installations and the challenges posed by non-state actors to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal were concerns receiving the highest attention at top levels in the government, the NDMA vice chief made it clear that the possibility of such attacks or the neighbouring country's nuclear weapons falling into terrorists' hands was not a point of discussion at the meeting.

"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," he said.

The prime minister discussed new measures such as installing hi-tech radiation measuring gadgets in 35 cities across India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, and asked the states and central agencies to work on implementing the chemical, biological, nuclear and radiation disaster management guidelines prepared by the NDMA.

The meeting noted with satisfaction that there was no accident in any nuclear facility in the past in the country, though there were radiation emergencies such as the Mayapuri junkyard incident in Delhi last year in which one person died after coming in contact with radioactive material disposed off by an educational institution.




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