Regulatory Approval

Regulatory Framework Under the Atomic Energy Act in India

calendar25 Jan, 2024
timeReading Time: 8 Minutes
Atomic Energy Act

The first step towards the Atomic Energy Act was when then-prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru submitted the Atomic Energy Bill in the Constituent Assembly in 1948, and the Indian nuclear strategy was officially begun. The primary goals of the measure were to provide the state control of atomic materials and to conduct systematic, covert research and development. Additionally, the Act resulted in the establishment of an institutional framework, which included the Department of Scientific Research’s Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, which was reorganized in 1958, the Atomic Energy Establishment and Department of Atomic Energy in 1954, and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) in 1983. The Atomic Energy Act of 1962, a more extensive version of the 1948 statute, took its place. The “welfare of the people of India” was its main concern.

This blog talks about the historical background, key provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, the objectives of the Atomic Energy Act, the important definitions that are mentioned, and the amendments related to the Act.

What is Atomic Energy?

The energy emitted during a radioactive decay procedure or nuclear reaction is atomic energy. Fission is one type of nuclear reaction that takes place in a nuclear reactor and emits energy, often in the form of radiation and heat. The energy emitted by an atom’s nucleus, composed of protons and neutrons, is known as nuclear energy. There are two ways to generate this energy source: fusion, which occurs when nuclei fuse, or fission, which occurs when atoms divide into several sections.

Historical Background of the Atomic Energy Act in India

Initiatives to restrict the appropriate use of nuclear energy have been made repeatedly because of concern that, as technology advances, it may potentially devastate the whole planet. Governments have developed legal frameworks to define nuclear responsibility, offer a means of obtaining compensation for losses incurred by individuals due to nuclear accidents, address culpability for harm caused to third parties, and establish restrictions and safety measures for the use of nuclear energy and electricity.

It wasn’t until 1945 that nuclear science research became organized, with the founding of Bombay’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Soon after India attained independence in 1948, the Atomic Energy Act was established by Parliament, outlining the country’s goal to produce and use atomic energy only for peaceful reasons. However, the Department of Atomic Energy was only created by the government in 1954 and given complete authority over all nuclear operations within the nation.

Objectives of the Atomic Energy Act in India

Some of the key objectives of the Atomic Energy Act are mentioned here:

Protection and security

  • The Atomic Energy Act establishes the regulatory structure to secure the functioning of nuclear plants and related activities.
  • One of the crucial objectives of the Atomic Energy Act is to protect the country from its adverse effects.
  • It also establishes policies and relevant procedures that help prevent accidents and protect the general public and workers; it is also beneficial for decreasing the damages and other environmental consequences of nuclear operations.

Non-Proliferation

  • One of the most crucial objectives of the Atomic Energy Act is non-proliferation. Numerous Atomic Energy Acts contain obligations to global non-proliferation treaties and agreements.
  • By laying down these policies and agreements, countries can take steps to try to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and various other technologies related to them.

Control and Licensing

  • The Atomic Energy Act outlines the processes for submitting applications for licenses and permits for various nuclear activities.
  • This ensures that the development and operation of nuclear power plants, the management of radioactive materials, and the study of atomic energy are all done solely by competent and responsible parties.

Encouragement of Nonviolent Use

  • The Atomic Energy Act encourages the application and development of atomic energy for non-defense purposes, including manufacturing, electricity generation, and health-related research.

Public Trust

  • The Atomic Energy Act establishes rules and regulations, standards for safety measures, and liability processes to reassure people about the safety of nuclear operations and their responsible conduct.

Collaborating on a Global Level

  • The Atomic Energy Act also encourages collaboration on an international level, which also enables a country to collaborate with various other countries as well as international organizations.

Accountability and Compensation

  • The Act establishes a legal framework for assigning blame and compensating affected parties in a nuclear disaster.

Protecting and Preserving the Environment 

  • Typically, provisions pertaining to nuclear activities and the environment are included in Atomic Energy Acts.
  • To mitigate the enduring ecological harm, tight regulations for the handling, preservation, and elimination of radioactive waste could be necessary.

Key Provisions of the Atomic Energy Act in India

The Atomic Energy Act consists of various important provisions. Key provisions of the Atomic Energy Act are:

  • All the important definitions and their interpretation as per the Atomic Energy Act are included in this Act. The crucial terms that are included are:
  Atomic Energy  Plant  
  Radioactive Substance  Prescribed Equipment  
  Minerals    Fissile Material
  Radiation  Prescribed Substance  
  • The act also talks about all the general powers that are conferred with the Central Government.
  • The provisions related to the discovery of uranium or thorium are also included in the Act.
  • Provisions related to the control over mining. If the mining or concentration of the substance that has uranium in it is done. The steps that will be taken by the Central Government are mentioned.
  • The provision related to the disposal of uranium is also present in this Act.
  • The Act also talks about the provision related to the power of the Central Government to obtain any information. The information can be related to processes, materials, or plants.
  • The Act also talks about the power related to entry and inspection by the authorized officers of the Central Government.
  • Provisions of compulsory acquisitions of rights to the Central Government when prescribed substances are found in some minerals are also included.
  • The section related to the Compulsory acquisition of prescribed substances, minerals, and plants is also present in the Act.
  • Provisions related to compensation in cases of acquisitions.
  • The rules on how atomic energy will be used and control of its production.
  • Contract novation provisions.
  • Radioactive substance control provisions.
  • Safety provisions.
  • The Act also included provisions on disclosure of information and restrictions on it.
  • Special provisions on electricity and inventions.
  • Provisions on penalties and offences committed under the Act.
  • Power delegation under the Act.

These are some of the key provisions of the Atomic Energy Act that are very important to understand to stay in compliance with all laws in India relating to atomic energy.

Amendments made in the Atomic Energy Act in India

Amendments are additions to rules and regulations that take place after the act is introduced. Amendments can also include repealing provisions that are no longer useful. One of the most important amendments to the Atomic Energy Act was:

The Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Lok Sabha was presented with the Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill 2015 on December 7, 2015.  The bill was introduced by the Minister who was in charge of the Department of Atomic Energy.  The bill aims to alter the Atomic Energy Act of 1962.  The national government of India is authorized to produce, evolve, oversee, and make use of atomic energy under the Atomic Energy Act.

The bill states that licenses granted for the following purposes will be cancelled if the licensee ceases to be a government agency:

  • That produces atomic energy and
  • Procuring and utilizing minerals or materials capable of making atomic energy.

According to the Atomic Energy Act, a license is required for the acquisition, manufacture, use, export, or import of any plant meant for the development and production of atomic energy or research.  The bill amends subsequently to state that only central government agencies or government corporations will be qualified to apply for and be granted such a license.

As per this Act, an enterprise is classified as a government company if the central government holds a minimum of fifty-one percent of its paid-up share capital.  Paid-up share capital is the sum of money that an entity gets when it issues shares.  The proposed legislation expands the definition of this expression to include companies whose articles of association grant the central government the power to select each member of their board of directors, as well as those where all the paid-up share capital is owned by more than one government enterprise. This provision allows the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and other government-owned entities to form joint ventures.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)

The main organization in charge of investigating matters pertaining to all aspects of nuclear safety is the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. The President of India established it on November 15, 1983, using the authority granted by Section 27 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1962. The Atomic Energy Act of 1962 and the Environment Protection Act of 1986 provide the regulations and notices that AERB is authorized to regulate. Mumbai is home to AERB’s main office.

The board’s goal is to guarantee that there is no excessive danger to public health and the environment from the use of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation in India. The board currently has three part-time members: a full-time chairman, an ex-officio member, and a secretary.

The Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety (ACNS) provides recommendations to AERB. Experts from AERB, DAE (the Department of Atomic Energy, established on August 3, 1954), and organizations outside of the DAE make up the ACNS. The ACNS offers recommendations on the safety rules, guidelines, and manuals created by the corresponding advisory committees for each of these categories. These guides are established for sitting, design, building, operation, quality assurance, and decommissioning/life extension of nuclear power plants.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Atomic Energy Act is a very vital act that provides all the significant information on the use, production, and prohibition of atomic energy and related things. All entities in atomic energy-related work should ensure they comply with all the rules and regulations in the Atomic Energy Act.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Atomic Energy Act?

The making, applying, and security of atomic energy are governed under the Atomic Energy Act.

2. What makes the Act significant?

It maintains international non-proliferation obligations, controls nuclear facilities, and guarantees the peaceful use of atomic energy.

3. Who issues licenses under the Act?

Licenses are granted by the central government for a range of nuclear operations, including installation and use.

4. What is the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) function?

Nuclear activity safety and security regulations are supervised and enforced by AERB.

5. In what ways does the Act support energy security?

It encourages nuclear power development as part of a sustainable energy mix.

6. What measures are in place to stop the spread of nuclear weapons?

The Act contains safeguards against nuclear material mishandling or diversion.

7. How do environmental issues get addressed by the Act?

Standards for environmental preservation and radiation safety are guaranteed by provisions.

8. Can India work with other countries in the atomic energy domain?

To use atomic energy peacefully, yes, the Act promotes international cooperation and agreements in this regard.

9. When did India first use atomic energy?

The first nuclear reactor in Asia, Apsara, attained criticality on August 4, 1956; at 3:45 p.m., Prime Minister Nehru inaugurated it on January 20, 1957.

10. Is radiation atomic energy?

The sudden release of energy through an unstable atom into a more stable state is known as radioactivity. A radioactive atom releases energy, which is known as ionizing radiation. Atoms of the same element that are radioactive but have varying neutron counts are called radioactive isotopes.

11. What does AERB stand for?

The acronym for the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is AERB. Its goal is to guarantee that India’s use of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation does not put the environment’s and people’s health at unnecessary risk.

12. Which Indian ministry oversees atomic energy regulation?

Nuclear technology and research are within the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office and are handled by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

13. What does atomic energy get used for?

Power from nuclear energy may be utilized to run hospitals, schools, companies, and residences. The first nuclear power plant was situated close to Arco, Idaho. In 1951, the Experimental Breeder Reactor started to run on its energy.

14. Which two forms of atomic energy are there?

Atoms may release enormous quantities of energy through two physical processes called fission and fusion. Through nuclear processes, they provide energy millions of times more abundant than from conventional sources.

15. Which crimes fall within the Atomic Energy Act’s purview?

Unauthorized use, possession, or transfer of nuclear material are crimes that carry specific punishments.

16. In what ways does the Atomic Energy Act advance science and innovation?

It promotes and controls atomic energy-related scientific research as well as technical developments.

17. Under the Atomic Energy Act, are private organizations allowed to run nuclear facilities?

Private organizations can indeed apply for licenses to build and run nuclear facilities.

18. What is the international standard compliance mechanism?

The Act requires adherence to global norms, such as those established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

19. How does one go about getting a license under the Atomic Energy Act?

Candidates must fulfil predetermined requirements and go through the Atomic Energy Act’s defined approval procedures.

20. How is public safety ensured by the Act?

It creates safety requirements and radiation exposure guidelines to safeguard the general public’s health.

21. Is the Atomic Energy Act subject to amendment?

Yes, the Atomic Energy Act has been amended to conform to changing international norms and developments in atomic energy.

Read our Article: AERB Approval For X-Ray Machines: Document And Procedure

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