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'India attaching high priority to nuclear safety'

United Nations: India on Wednesday said it attaches "the highest priority" to the safety of its nuclear plants and will invite experts from the IAEA to assist it in reviewing and enhancing their operational safety performance.

"Our nuclear safety track record has been impeccable over 345 reactor years of operation but we recognise the importance of continuous improvement and innovation in our nuclear safety standards and practices covering the entire range of activities citing, design, construction, operation and upgradation," Member of Parliament Prem Chand Gupta said in his address to the UN General Assembly session on annual report of the IAEA.

He said the Indian Government has underscored that safety of the country's nuclear plants "is a matter of the highest priority".

The various measures taken by the government for nuclear safety include introduction of a bill in Parliament to change the functional status of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board to a "de-jure independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority". In addition, six safety review committees have looked into various aspects of nuclear safety.

"India will invite the Operational Safety Review Teams of IAEA to assist in its own safety reviews and audit. All reactors, whether indigenous or imported will, without exception, meet the enhanced safety standards," Gupta added. India is also putting increased focus on emergency preparedness and response to a nuclear accident beyond the design basis accidents.

"India supports the work of IAEA and from this perspective has cosponsored the draft resolution on the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear incident, India said the world nuclear community has to take necessary measures to address concerns of public about safety of nuclear power plants. "Nuclear safety should be seen not as a static but as a continuously evolving process," he said.

It is also important that the IAEA takes all necessary measures to allay apprehensions in the public and among member states about the safety of nuclear power plants, taking into account the current advances in design and technology.

Gupta said India views nuclear energy as an essential element of its national energy basket and the country is committed to taking forward its three-stage nuclear programme based on a closed fuel cycle. India envisages scaling up nuclear energy production to 20,000 MW by 2020 and 60,000 MW by 2030.





Advani slams PM on 2G note issue

Panaji: BJP leader L K Advani on Wednesday hit out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the 2G note issue and demanded answers on the PMO's role in the scam.

"The country has to know how much was PMO's responsibility and how is the finance minister responsible," Advani told reporters here. The note had sought to suggest that P Chidambaram, as then Finance Minister in 2008, could have prevented the 2G scam by insisting on auctioning the spectrum. Advani also accused the Congress of making its ally DMK a "scapegoat" in the 2G case.

"You can't try to make one of your alliance partners a scapegoat for all the corruption that has been going on in the government," he said. Advani, who is in Goa as part of his anti-graft yatra, said, "Congress as a party is no less responsible than any of the alliance partners for the corruption. "I have no sympathy for any alliance partner. I have no sympathy for anyone indulging in corruption...I hope, when Parliament session begins this time, all the facts would be brought to the notice of the country and Parliament," he said.

The BJP leader is in Goa since Tuesday and would be leaving for Maharashtra this evening.





Nepal parties ink seven-point breakthrough peace deal 

Kathmandu: Putting their differences aside, Nepal's main political parties have inked a historic deal that includes an agreement on integrating former Maoist combatants into the security forces, to take a major step towards concluding the stalled peace process.

The four major political forces which represent more than 85 per cent strength of the 601 member Constituent Assembly reached a seven-point agreement last night to conclude the stalled peace process within a month and to prepare a draft constitution.

An agreement on the contentious issue of integrating the former combatants was a major part of the deal which decided to integrate a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants into security forces and returning properties sezied during the civil conflict to their rightful owners.

Those who signed the deal at the end of a crucial meeting held at Prime Minister's residence at Baluwatar last night include UCPN-Maoist chief Prachanda, Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and leader of Joint Democratic Madhesi Front and Deputy Prime Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar.

As per the deal a maximum of 6,500 Maoist combatants will be integrated into the Nepal Army by creating a separate directorate, whose responsibility would be to carry out development activities, forest conservation, industrial security and crisis management, according to Nepali Congress vice president Ramchandra Poudyal.






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