CAG wrong, Atomic Energy Act has more punitive provisions


Chennai : It is wrong to say that the Atomic Energy Act provides for a fine of just Rs.500 for safety violations by nuclear and radiation facilities, as the same law, under a different section, lists that safety violations are punishable with imprisonment or fine or both, say former officials of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

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“CAG’s (Comptroller and Auditor General) observation on fines for violations under the Atomic Energy Act got wide publicity. The statement that the fine for a safety violation is a measly Rs.500 can obviously and rightly excite raw emotions. Not surprisingly, the media reacted. However, none looked at the Atomic Energy Act,” K.S. Parthasarathy, former secretary, AERB, told IANS.

He said safety violations of the Atomic Energy Act are punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or fine, or both.

Citing Section 24 of the Act that provides for offences and penalties, Parthasarathy said persons violating rules under Section 17 (Special Provisions as to safety) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. This is consistent with other similar legislation.

“Violators may attract the same punishment, if they obstruct any person authorised by the Central Government under sub-section (4) of Section 17 in the exercise of powers of inspection under that sub-section,” he added.

Given this situation, the CAG’s conclusion (referring to Section 30 of the Act) that the maximum fine for violation of safety measures by nuclear and radiation facilities is just Rs.500 is wrong, Parthasarathy remarked.

Speaking to IANS, S.K. Sharma, former AERB chairman said: “More than the fines, directions to stop construction or operation of nuclear plant is more costly for the operator. Such directions act as more powerful deterrents than fines.”

He said construction work of the fifth and sixth units of Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) was ordered to be stopped for a week when there was some problem of industrial safety.

Similarly one unit of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS in Gujarat) was asked to shut down in 2004 to set right the unexpected surge in power, Sharma said.

Officials of the AERB currently in service were not available for comment.