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Friday 18 November 2011

More on Nuclear Liability Rules

Industry divided over new nuclear liability rules
Sanjay Jog / Mumbai November 18, 2011, 0:58 IST

The nuclear industry is divided over the new notification on civil
nuclear liability law. Some believe there has been a dilution of the
law and violation of the spirit; others feel suppliers from abroad
would still not be happy. The communist parties are expected to take
up the issue in the ensuing winter session of Parliament.

“It is a correction to the defective law Parliament had passed last
year,” a senior nuclear scientist said. On the other hand, a CPM
leader, who did not want to be identified, attacked the government for
violating the spirit of the law. He said they would not spare the
government on this.

The state-run Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC), engaged in increasing
power generation capacity to 63,000 Mw by 2032, said it would go a
long way in addressing the concerns of the Indian nuclear industry. An
NPC official, who did not want to be identified, told Business
Standard: “The rules will give much needed relief to nuclear
installation operators in India, as they will have a right to seek
recourse compensation from suppliers for a limited period of time and
not for the entire lifetime of a nuclear reactor. Further, the rules
allow nuclear operators a right of recourse to claim damages from
their suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident.”
A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory
Board, said: “We have a prime minister who is personally against the
provision for the right to recourse against the supplier (section-17b)
and the right of citizens to take legal action under tort law (section
46), which were put into the Nuclear Liability Act against his wishes
by the Opposition in Parliament. Now, the UPA government’s attempt is
to see how in fact sections 17(b) and 46 can be indirectly invalidated
through clever manipulation of rules, because amending the law is
almost impossible.”

Adding: “Frankly, there is no connection between the “licencing
period”, set by the nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory
Board (AERB), and the “product liability period”, to be negotiated and
put in the contract by the buyer (NPC). While the former is fixed at
five years for safety reasons, the product liability period for a
reactor has to be much longer. After all, these modern reactors have a
safe design life of 60 years, according to the supplier.” He wanted to
know why NPC could not insist on a product liability period high
enough to be consistent with this design life.

Surinder Thakur, Fellow at the NPC, said: “It will go a long way in
providing a compensation to the victims, in the unlikely event of a
nuclear accident without proving the fault. With the notification of
these rules, a civil nuclear liability Act generally consistent with
the international civil nuclear liability regime comes into effect.”

Areva India chairman Arthur de Montalembert said: “We will study the
new published rules for civil nuclear liability law.” Areva is
currently engaged in talks with NPC for the supply of two evolutionary
pressurised reactors of 1,650 Mw each for the proposed 9,900-Mw
Jaitapur project.

“With the newly notified rules for nuclear liability, India should be
able to address the predominant concerns of suppliers. This, coupled
with the greater availability of uranium around the world, would mean
more suppliers of uranium will start taking India seriously. But this
is only the first step. With the ongoing opposition to mining across
minerals, India will have to be import-dependent for a long time.”
said Gokul Chaudhri, partner, BMR Advisors.

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