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Smuggling of uranium: ATS seizes 7kg uranium

Context:

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested two persons under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, with 7 kg natural uranium estimated to be worth around Rs 21 crore.

Relevance:

GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure, Mineral & Energy Resources, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution & Degradation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What exactly is uranium and what are its uses?
  2. Uranium Deposits in India
  3. Legislations regarding Regulation of Uranium
  4. Atomic Energy Act, 1962
  5. Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)
  6. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

What exactly is uranium and what are its uses?

  • Uranium occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and water and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals.
  • Uranium that has a silvery grey metallic appearance is mainly used in nuclear power plants due to its unique nuclear properties.
  • Depleted uranium is also used as shield against radiation in medical processes using radiation therapy and also while transporting radioactive materials.
  • Though itself radioactive, uranium’s high density makes it effective in halting radiation. Its high density also makes it useful as counterweights in aircraft and industrial machinery.

Uranium Deposits in India

  • In India, Uranium deposits occur in the Dharwar rocks.
  • It occurs along the Singhbhum Copper belt (Jharkhand); Udaipur, Alwar and Jhunjhunu districts of Rajasthan, Durg district of Chhattisgarh, Bhandara district of Maharashtra and Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Significant quantities of reserves have been recently discovered in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana between Seshachalam forest and Sresailam (Southern edge of Andhra to Southern edge of Telangana).

Legislations regarding Regulation of Uranium

  • Since Uranium is a major mineral, it is managed by the Union Government under provisions of ‘The Mines & Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act)’.
  • The policy and legislation relating to Major minerals are managed by the Ministry of Mines, but Uranium being an atomic mineral is managed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
  • Many of these mineral deposits are found in rich forest reserves and thus approval of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change becomes necessary.

Atomic Energy Act, 1962

  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1962, was enacted to provide for the development, control and use of atomic energy for the welfare of the people of India and for other peaceful purposes.
  • It provides the basic regulatory framework for all activities related to atomic energy programme and use of ionising radiation in India.
  • The Atomic Energy Act refers to control over radioactive substance and special provisions for safety along with empowering the Regulatory Body Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) with administration of Factories Act 1948, including enforcement of its provisions, appointment of inspection staff and making of rules in the installations of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
  • The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is the primary institution tasked to look at issues regarding everything related to nuclear safety constituted in 1983 by the President of India under the powers conferred in the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.
  • Atomic Energy act of 1962, protects information related to nuclear establishment and empowers Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to deny information.

Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)

  • The main mission of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is to ensure that the use of ionizing radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to health and the environment.
  • The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was constituted under the provisions of Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the regulatory authority of AERB is derived from the rules and notifications promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act and the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • Currently, the Board consists of a full-time Chairman, an ex officio Member, three part-time Members and a Secretary.
  • AERB is supported by the Safety Review Committee for Operating Plants (SARCOP), Safety Review Committee for Applications of Radiation (SARCAR) and Advisory Committees for Project Safety Review (ACPSRs).
  • AERB also receives advice from the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety (ACNS), composed of experts from AERB, DAE and institutions outside the DAE.
  • The administrative and regulatory mechanisms which are in place ensure multi-tier review by experts available nationwide – who are from reputed academic institutions and governmental agencies.

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

  • Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha conceived the Nuclear Program in India. Dr Bhabha established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) for carrying out nuclear science research in 1945.
  • To intensify the effort to exploit nuclear energy for the benefit of the nation, Dr Bhabha established the Atomic Energy Establishment, Trombay (AEET) in January 1954 for a multidisciplinary research program essential for the ambitious nuclear program of India. AEET was renamed Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in 1966.

-Source: Indian Express

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