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Tuesday, 13 December 1983
Page: 3709

Question No. 276

Senator Bolkus asked the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 24 August 1983:

(1) Has the Minister for Resources and Energy's attention been drawn to a report in the Times of India of 7 May 1983 which stated that 300 nuclear workers have been contaminated in the Tarapur nuclear power plant near Bombay.

(2) Did the Times of India also report that because of a shortage of trained personnel, Indians with little or no knowledge of radiation are being shuttled in and out of nuclear 'hot spots' for brief periods.

(3) Do Tarapur workers continually receive radiation doses far above allowable standards.

(4) Why has the United States refused to supply India with more uranium to refuel the Tarapur reactors.

Senator Walsh —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) I understand that an article in the Times of India of 9 May 1983 reported that in the operation of the Tarapur atomic power reactors (TAPS) more than 300 people had been exposed to annual radiation doses in excess of 5,000 millirems. The article also reported that TAPS management had for some years brought in skilled and unskilled workers from outside to help TAPS employees because too many TAPS employees had received exposures in excess of annual limits. The article stated that a large number of local villagers, most of them semi-literate, had been used for high risk maintenance jobs.

(3) The Times of India article stated that the average exposure of all TAPS employees in 1982 was 2,222 millirems. Radiation doses of this magnitude fall between the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommended annual limits of 5,000 millirems for employees designated as radiation workers and 500 millirems for other than designated employees and for members of the public. A further Times of India article on 12 May 1983 reported the then Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission as revealing that since 1969, 329 person had received radiation exposures in excess of the 5,000 millirem annual limit. In a debate in the Indian Parliament on 25 July 1983 the Minister for Science and Technology stated that ICRP recommendations provide for the basic limit of 5,000 millirems for designated radiation workers to be exceeded under special approval to meet specific work requirements. However, the ICRP recommendations note that such exposures should occur only infrequently during normal operations.

(4) The decision by the United States to refuse to continue to supply India with enriched uranium to refuel the Tarapur reactors was based on provisions of the United States Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act (NNPA) of 1978. The Act prohibits in principle the export of nuclear materials such as enriched uranium to countries which do not accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all nuclear facilities (fullscope safeguards). India does not accept fullscope safeguards. The NNPA required India to accept obligations additional to those included in the Nuclear Co-operation Agreement with the United States signed in 1963 before further enriched uranium would be supplied by the United States, namely IAEA safeguards over all of its nuclear facilities. There have been no United States approvals for fuel shipments since 1980.