Kathmandu, February 4
Former ambassador to China Mahesh Maskey has criticised the bill on Safe and Peaceful Use of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials, which was recently registered at the Parliament Secretariat, saying the government should not have combined two different subjects of nuclear and radioactive materials in one bill.
Maskey is of the view that though Nepal required a law to regulate uses of radioactive materials, which would be helpful in the medical and agriculture sectors, it did not require any bill on nuclear use.
“We can use radioactive technology without using nuclear materials. For example, radioactive technologies can be used through magnets,” Maskey told THT. “But if nuclear field cycle is used, it could pose a serious risk as Nepal is vulnerable to natural disasters,” he added.
However, Joint-secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Rishi Koirala defended the bill and said the bill was the result of the country’s present need and its international obligations.
Nepal had signed Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty in September, 2017 during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. Also, Nepal became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency on 8 July 2008. “The bill is in line with the treaty Nepal has signed,” he told THT. Koirala further said if the bill was passed it would open the door for development and trade in nuclear weapons.
Koirala also said that Nepal didn’t have any regulatory authority for using high technology related to advancement of nuclear and radioactive power in the health sector. “We can’t import advanced technology for cancer treatment at
present due to lack of law on use of nuclear materials. If the bill is passed, hospitals could bring advanced technology for cancer treatment in Nepal itself ending people’s compulsion to go abroad for treatment of cancer,” he said.
Associate professor and senior medical physicist Kanchan P Adhikari said in the absence of such a regulatory authority, medical equipment were being used haphazardly.
“For example, radiologists at x-ray centres should know what degree of x-ray should be released for conducting x-ray on a person with fractured limb,” said Adhikari, who is also a radiation safety officer at National Academy of Medical Science, Bir Hospital.
Koirala added that the bill would also not violate standards set by the IAEA.
In South Asia, besides Nepal, Afghanistan, Sir Lanka, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are members of IAEA, including the northern neighbour China.
The bill states if someone without a licence misuses technology related to nuclear and radioactive power and kills someone, the person will be jailed for life. Similarly, if someone injures others by misusing the technology, s/he will be fined upto 12 lakh rupees and be slapped five to 10 years imprisonment.
A version of this article appears in print on February 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.