New nuke law stipulates plan for disaster management



The Radioactive Materials Use and Regulation Act, 2020, recently authenticated by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, requires the Government of Nepal to develop and implement a disaster preparedness and management plan at the national level to prevent and manage any disastrous impact of hazardous substances.

Its bill was passed by the House of Representatives and National Assembly after necessary modification based on clause-wise discussion held in the houses and Parliamentary panel. As per Section 32 of the act, any person or institution licenced to possess or use nuclear and radioactive materials shall also be obliged to formulate and implement disaster preparedness and management plan in line with the plan issued by the government.

“The plan developed by the concerned licencee shall be updated from time to time,” it reads. The act envisions to achieve the goal of national prosperity through the development of state-of-the-art technology, while protecting public health and environment from significant adverse effects of nuclear and radioactive materials.

Nepal had signed the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty in September 2017, during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. It became a member of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency in July 2008. With enactment of the act, Nepal will be eligible to purchase nuclear technologies for peaceful purpose.

Nepal has expressed its strong commitment towards the principles of general and complete disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear in compliance with safeguard frameworks of the IAEA.

Section 33 stipulates provision relating to the ways to tackle possible cross-border disaster resulting from radioactive substances.

“If the effect of radioactive pollution is likely to spread beyond Nepali border, the government shall provide information to the IAEA and the concerned country. In such a case, the government shall initiate diplomatic efforts with the IAEA and the concerned country to resolve the crisis,” reads the act.

The act stipulates a provision of a regulatory body to carry out regulation of nuclear and radioactive materials.

The government may designate any ministry or agency to function as the regulatory body until the formation of an authorised regulatory body.

Functions, duties and powers of the regulatory body include formulation of policies, plans and programmes related to nuclear and radioactive materials, develop a standard for protection of citizens, flora and fauna, property and environment from the potential impacts of the ionized radiation; determine duties and responsibilities of the persons or institutions licenced to use nuclear and radioactive material and fix qualification of technicians working in the licenced institution.

This law has clearly mentioned that ionized radiation and nuclear technology shall be used only for peaceful purposes.

Any person or institution wishing to carry out activities related to nuclear or radioactive materials shall have to submit an application with necessary documents to the regulatory body for a licence.

“No one shall carry out activities related to nuclear or radioactive materials without obtaining a licence,” reads the act. A licence obtained by a person or institution is non-transferable.

If a licencee is found to have violated the terms and conditions set forth in the licence and the prevailing laws, the regulatory body may revoke such a licence by giving him/her an opportunity of defence.

As per the act, if a person uses technology related to nuclear and radioactive power without obtaining license, s/he shall be imprisoned for a term ranging from five to 10 years, along with a fine up to Rs 1.2 million.

In the case of death or injury of any person due to negligence and misuse of nuclear or radioactive materials, the perpetrator shall be charged with homicide.

The concerned court shall also order him/her to pay prescribed amount to kin of the victim as compensation.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 8, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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