Foreign suppliers of equipment for atomic reactors to India cannot be sued by victims of a nuclear accident, the government said on Sunday while releasing details of the “breakthrough” reached with the US recently.
However, suppliers can be held liable by the operator who has the right of recourse, the government said in a detailed paper on ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQs) over the nuclear deal with the US.
On January 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting US President Barack Obama had jointly announced the “breakthrough” to operationalise the long-stalled ‘123 Agreement’ signed way back in September 2008.
Nuclear liability is a contentious issue across the world especially after the 2011 tsunami-induced disaster at the Fukushima-Daichi plant in Japan, where the clean-up is estimated to cost upto $200 billion (Rs 12 lakh crore), about one-tenth of India’s GDP.
Activists point out that the reactor’s supplier General Electric (GE) managed to escape accountability as under Japanese law, the supplier is indemnified from liability for an accident.
Incidentally, GE is part of the Indo-US nuclear contact group which took part in three rounds of discussions in London which ultimately to the “breakthrough” just three days before Obama arrived in India.
In its seven-page statement, the external affairs ministry also said, “There is no proposal to amend the civil liability for nuclear damage (CLND) Act or the Rules.”
Asserting that the legislation “channels all legal liability for nuclear damage exclusively to the operator,” the MEA said that concerns over the broad scope of section 46 -- pertaining to possible actions under other laws -- have been raised by suppliers, both domestic and foreign. It clarified that this section “does not provide a basis for bringing claims for compensation for nuclear damage under other Acts.”
India gave a memorandum to the US on Friday assuring them the same.
Pointing out that the government will set up an insurance pool of Rs 1,500 crore, the ministry said it will provide a source of funds to compensate “third parties” in case of a nuclear accident.
The government is aiming to achieve a production target of 63,000 MW of nuclear power by 2032 to meet the country’s growing demand for energy.
The opposition Congress indicated that it will demand details of the deal from the government when Parliament meets for the budget session from February 23.