Chavan allays industry fears on nuclear bill

Last Updated: Sat, Sep 25, 2010 15:10 hrs

Mumbai, Sep 25 (IANS) Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan Saturday dismissed apprehensions that the terms of a law on nuclear suppliers' liability in case of an accident would discourage investment in the nuclear energy sector.

He said that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 was prepared on a set of internationally-accepted principles in the civil liability jurisprudence. It was modelled in a way that compensation-related problems like seen in the case of the Bhopal gas tragedy are not repeated.

The victims of Bhopal had to run from pillar to post because there was no legislation at that time to safeguard their interests, Chavan pointed out at an interactive meeting with industry captains organised by the Indian Merchants' Chamber (IMC) here Saturday.

Chavan said that the government would appoint a commissioner for small compensation-related cases and a commission for big case, and litigation would not be allowed so that compensation could be given out immediately.

Though there was no ceiling on the compensation amount, the liability of the operator would be limited to a maximum of Rs.1,500 crore (around $330 million).

He said that the operator of nuclear power projects would be the government, through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, which would approve the designs for the projects.

While the Indian private sector would be a minority stakeholder in the projects, the foreign companies would be allowed as suppliers only.

Dismissing the contention that the bill was brought to accommodate American interests, Chavan said that the government was in touch with four companies - France's Areva, Japan's GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse and a Russian company.

Stressing the importance of nuclear energy, Chavan pointed out that if the country were to sustain the current rate of growth then the present installed capacity of 164,000 MW needed to be quadrupled by 2030.

He urged the IMC to set up an expert group to help frame the civil liability rules expeditiously so that the government could proceed with the implementation of nuclear power projects in a time-bound manner.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, IMC president Dilip Dandekar said that the civil nuclear agreement between the US and India ended the country's isolation in the global nuclear commerce and opened its state-controlled nuclear power market to foreign firms.

'The enactment of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 would now enable the nuclear equipment suppliers from across the globe to actively participate in Indian nuclear power projects,' said Dandekar.

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