Bangladesh is going ahead with the construction of a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant at Rooppur with Russian assistance. In doing so, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) was formed in 2013 following the enactment of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Act 2012. The BAERA has the primary responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of the general public and the plant workers against any harmful effects arising from peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In order to carry out this responsibility, the authority needs to (i) establish regulatory standards, codes and criteria, (ii) review and evaluate the safety analysis and environmental reports (iii) issue licences and (iv) inspect the licensee's facility to ensure that the design, manufacture, installation and operation conform to specified rules and regulations.
It is important that the authority is staffed by highly qualified and experienced professionals. A guidebook of the International Energy Agency (IAEA) entitled “Manpower Development for Nuclear Power” (Technical Reports Series No. 200) clearly specifies the required qualifications and experience of the head of the authority and its directors and other professionals. According to this guidebook, the head (chairman) should have an “MS in nuclear engineering” with experience of “Min. 15 years in progressively responsible positions in power plant engineering, including 5 years in nuclear power, preferably safety-oriented activities….” and specialized training of “1 -2 years nuclear safety regulations, orientation in foreign regulations and other international codes of practice, safety guides, etc…” The directors of different divisions (equivalent to members) should have MS in engineering (mechanical, civil, electrical or nuclear) with experience of 10-12 years in the specified fields. The organization will have about 55 professionals, 80% of whom shall have MS in electrical, mechanical, civil or nuclear engineering. Unfortunately, while drafting the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Act 2012, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission ignored the IAEA guidelines and manipulated the qualifications and experience of the chairman, members and other professionals of BAERA- jeopardizing the concept of the formation of the authority.
Consequently, a floodgate has been opened for appointment of incompetent people without any knowledge of nuclear engineering or safety of nuclear reactors as chairman, members and other professionals of BAERA. This undermines the importance of the authority and puts the safety of our nuclear reactors at great risk. Moreover, to make BAERA fully autonomous and independent, it should be made accountable to a special parliamentary committee on nuclear safety. It is, therefore essential that we amend the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Act 2012 to modify the qualifications and experience as per IAEA guidelines and make BAERA accountable to a special parliamentary committee.
The writer is a former chief engineer of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.