India: Axing of Nuclear Agency Raises Nuclear Weapon Fears
Indian police officers guard the proposed site for a new nuclear power plant near Jaitapur, some 250 miles south of Mumbai, April 20, 2011. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)
December 28, 2011
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific
By replacing an independent agency that has regulated and monitored its nuclear industry for the past 28 years with one controlled by the government, India is raising questions as to whether it wants to curtail transparency in its nuclear program so it can expand its nuclear arsenal. The move is raising concerns in Australia, which is now in negotiations to export uranium to India. Domestically, the move risks a backlash from Indian environmentalists, many of whom have raised safety concerns and fear that the government cannot be trusted to monitor and regulate itself.

While not yet finalized, India’s parliament is widely expected to pass legislation that will abolish the country’s independent Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. In its place, the government plans to establish a new body, the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority. Indian officials claim the change will help streamline its growing nuclear industry and make it less bureaucratic. Critics both inside and outside India are concerned that since the new agency’s staff will report directly to government officials in New Delhi, it will lack independence and transparency. With the fox guarding the hen house, critics argue, there are concerns that safety will be comprised and that the government may step up its nuclear weapons program.  

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