AERB chief to stay on for another year

The UPA government is giving an extra year in service to the head of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) which was criticised last week by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for weak functioning.

Sources said that AERB chairman Satinder Singh Bajaj, who is due to retire next January, is being given an extra year to ensure the formation of the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority which is pending with Parliament. The related Bill seeks to provide statutory status to the nuclear regulator.

Bajaj, who took over as AERB chief in January 2010, was given a three-year tenure by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet as per board rules which permit three years or until the age of 70, whichever is earlier, for the chairman.

"The need for an extra year has come about as the government expects the Bill to be passed in the winter session which will need piloting. Once it is approved, guidance will be required in setting up the NSRA," sources said. The Atomic Energy Commission has already approved the extension, they said.

Bajaj began his career with the Department of Atomic Energy in 1969 but retired as Senior Executive Director (Safety) from the Nuclear Power Corporation in July 2007. His main area of work, as highlighted by the AERB website, includes reactor safety analysis.

In the first-ever review of the performance of the 29-year-old AERB, the auditor last week blamed AERB for lagging in promotion of radiation safety. It said the AERB had not prepared a nuclear and radiation policy for three decades and was slow in adopting international standards and good practices.

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