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India better prepared for nuclear crisis: watchdog
by Staff Writers
Mumbai (AFP) Sept 29, 2011

India has improved procedures to deal with a nuclear emergency in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan, the country's atomic energy watchdog said Thursday, after criticism of its preparedness.

"After Fukushima, we have drawn lessons on all aspects of reactor safety and one positive development is the integrated disaster management plan," the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman S.S. Bajaj said.

Earlier this year, Bajaj's predecessor at the AERB, A. Gopalkrishnan, criticised India's readiness to deal with emergencies of any kind and said that plans to tackle major nuclear incidents were largely a paper exercise.

Drills were infrequent "half-hearted efforts which amount more to a sham", he said after an massive earthquake and tsunami struck the Japanese Fukushima plant in March, forcing a re-think on nuclear power around the world.

A survey of nearly 10,000 Indians at the time also suggested that 77 percent of people had concerns about atomic safety while 69 percent believed the authorities could not handle a nuclear disaster on the scale of that in Japan.

Bajaj told AFP on the sidelines of a nuclear energy summit in the financial hub Mumbai that India's nuclear emergency plan "was not that positive" in the past but added: "These weaknesses have been plugged."

M.C. Abani, a nuclear specialist at the National Disaster Management Authority, said that six emergency exercises had been conducted at Indian nuclear power plants since March and procedures strengthened.

"NDMA has raised 10 battalions of National Disaster Response Force. Each battalion has 1,150 soldiers and officers. They are trained in handling nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological incidents," he said.

Medical professionals working in and around existing and proposed nuclear power plants were also being trained in how to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear incident, he added.

India is increasingly looking to nuclear power to meet the demands of its fast-growing economy and burgeoning population as well as to provide energy security.

The South Asian country currently has 20 nuclear power plants, generating some 4,780 megawatts of power. Seven other reactors with a capacity of 5,300 megawatts are under construction.

The government aims to increase nuclear output to 63,000 MW by 2032.

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Quake rocks Japan's crippled nuclear power plant
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 29, 2011
A 5.6-magnitude earthquake shook an area of northeast Japan which includes the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant Thursday but there were no reports of damage to the facility, officials said. The moderate quake struck offshore near the coast of Fukushima at 7:05 pm (1005 GMT) with a "very shallow" focus, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. There were no fears of a tsunami f ... read more

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