KATHMANDU, Dec 12: Trashing a government proposal for allowing the excavation, use and trade in nuclear materials in the country, the parliamentary Committee on Education and Health has endorsed a Bill on Safe and Peaceful use of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials that only allows the use of radioactive materials for medical purposes.
Rewriting most of the provisions in the bill, the parliamentary committee has also made it mandatory for health institutions to secure a license for use of radioactive materials for treatment and diagnosis purposes.
“The bill has been completely revised, banning excavation, use or trade in nuclear or atomic materials in the country,” said former health minister and committee member Khagaraj Adhikari. “After revision of the bill, health institutions or organizations can only use radioactive materials in medical treatment or health- related activities.”
Any private or government institution using radioactive materials should secure a license within a year of enforcement of the revised provisions of the bill. The revised bill also bars individual doctors from getting such a license.
With the revision of the bill, any individual using radioactive materials can face a prison sentence of up to one year and a Rs 100,000 penalty or both.
Health institutions use radioactive materials for the treatment of cancer, thyroid and various other diseases. Any activity of smuggling, unsafe disposal or leakage of radioactive materials posing a health risk to the public may land 10 years in jail and a Rs 1 million penalty in addition to compensation for the victims, according to the bill.
The original bill registered by the government in the House of Representatives had sparked controversy after experts criticized the government for nudging the country toward nuclear power. Lawmakers had also voiced strong exception to various provisions in the bill allowing the private sector to set up a nuclear power plant in the country.
The government had registered the bill in parliament a year ago, citing lack of any legal framework for the peaceful use of high energy radioactive materials for medical and research purposes.
“The government can, however, study the availability of uranium in the country, the effect of atomic or radioactive leakage on citizens and other issues,” said Adhikari. Lawmakers on the committee insisted that Nepal should avoid nuclear-related activities given the geopolitical sensitivities as well as the country’s own priorities.
The revised bill has proposed a directive committee under the education, science and technology minister, including heads of security agencies and the secretaries of various ministries concerned.