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France signs pact on Jaitapur N-plant

delhi Updated: Dec 07, 2010 01:12 IST
Jayanth Jacob

India and France signed, on Monday, a key agreement on building two 1650 MW nuclear power reactors in Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district.

The General Framework Agreement between French nuclear major Areva and Nuclear Power Cooperation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for building European pressurised reactors (EPR) was inked, along with inter-governmental framework agreements on nuclear co-operation, in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

But some issues, including differences over India’s civil nuclear liability law, will have to be ironed out before the commercial contract is executed. Addressing a joint point conference, Singh said, “The framework agreement has been signed between Areva and NPCIL. There are issues with regard to other technical matters, including pricing. These are subject matters of negotiations.”

The French are worried about clauses dealing with suppliers’ liability in the Indian law, in case of accidents. They have raised concerns that the 2010 law is not consistent with international norms governing the liability regime – like the ones enshrined in the Vienna convention.

The joint statement between the two sides made it clear that further discussions would be held. “Following India’s enactment of a civil nuclear liability legislation, both countries stand ready to exchange views on this issue to ensure the appropriate framework for co-operation,” the statement said. The plant, which will have six reactors in all, is facing opposition from villagers who have voiced concerns over its radiological safety and its impact on the environment.

On Monday, the Shiv Sena and BJP joined the protests, prompting the villagers to call their intervention “very late and politically motivated.” Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray issued a statement saying that the project would destroy farmers’ livelihoods. “The Sena would oppose it vehemently,” he said. Seven Sena legislators, including Subhash Desai, also met the villagers to show solidarity.

The BJP formed a legislators’ committee, headed by Suresh Hawre, to “scientifically study” the project’s impact and submit a report in a week.