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Rediff.com  » News » Obama hugs Singh; PM to highlight n-safety at summit

Obama hugs Singh; PM to highlight n-safety at summit

Last updated on: March 26, 2012 21:33 IST

While it was a meet and greet encounter between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Reza Gilani on Monday evening, no doubt disappointing journalists on both sides, United States President Barack Obama singled out Dr Singh for a warm hug at the dinner South Korean President Lee Myung-bak hosted for leaders attending the second Nuclear Security Summit, reaffirming in a sense their effusive personal relationship.

On Tuesday, the prime minister, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters in Seoul late on Monday night, will speak about the interface between nuclear security and nuclear safety, in the light of last year's horrific Fukushima catastrophe in Japan, and reiterate that public concerns and worries about the safety of nuclear energy must be dealt with, even when countries plan an atomic power plant.

"There is a realisation now of the nexus between nuclear safety and nuclear security," sources familiar with India's Department of Atomic Energy said.

That will be the first of two interventions Dr Singh will make on the concluding day of the summit; during the plenary session he is expected to detail what India has done to make its nuclear programme more secure since the first NSS in Washington, DC two years ago, and how India perceives future cooperation on making the world's nuclear material more secure, and out of bounds for the terrorists who seek them.

"Guns, Gates and Guards are not enough to make a nuclear plant secure," the sources conversant with DAE policies declared.  "A nuclear plant has to be designed and planned in a manner in which it is protected against insiders."

When this reporter asked what the sources meant by protection against "insiders" the sources explained, "All those employees involved in routine maintenance will be given controlled and restricted access to a particular area, not to the entire plant. There will be compartmentalisation at all our nuclear sites. We will ensure mischief is not do-able and safety is ensured at all times."

The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority -- which the government plans to set up once Parliament passes The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill 2011 (you can read a draft of the bill here) -- will be in charge of security at India's nuclear plants.

The NSRA will have the responsibility of maintaining security within the boundaries of the nuclear plant, including its safety from the design stage onwards, while other agencies will protect the facility outside its boundaries.

"Considerations about the insider threat have always been there," the sources pointed out, "they have just taken prominence because of the Nuclear Security Summit."
Nikhil Lakshman in Seoul