Nuclear bill moved in Rajya Sabha, BJP reiterates support

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 11:28 hrs

New Delhi: Moving the nuclear liability bill in the Rajya Sabha Monday, Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan said nuclear power was not a panacea for India's energy needs but it was an option which could not be ignored.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has reiterated that it will support the bill.

'Nuclear energy is not a panacea, but it is an option which we cannot afford to overlook,' said Chavan.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill with 18 amendments Aug 25, with near unanimity.

Chavan thanked all political parties for reaching a consensus and approving the 18 amendments to the original bill. 'These 18 amendments strengthen the bill, make it more robust,' he said.

He said that of the 30 countries producing nuclear power, 28 nations have a civil liability law regarding nuclear energy. 'We are the only country which does not have such a law, besides Pakistan,' said Chavan.

On the issue of nuclear suppliers' liability, he said India has 'pushed the envelope'. '(We are the) first country in 28, where we are putting some responsibility on suppliers. This is necessary as this is the country which has suffered Bhopal (gas tragedy),' said Chavan.

The leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said BJP will support the bill as most of its concerns have been accommodated in the 18 amendments.

On the objection by industry that liability will dry up interest from suppliers in the Indian nuclear industry, Jaitley said it all depended on the 'character of the market'.

'It's no longer a supplier's market, it is a buyer's market. The character of the market will attract the suppliers,' he said.

He said the original bill was more like a 'supplier immunity bill', as it had made reference to the intent of the supplier to cause damage in the event of a nuclear accident.

'But, the point is why Indian tax payers should pay for someone else's mistakes. Any supplier will never manufacture equipment with the intent to cause damage. So it would virtually provide a liability-free regime,' he said.

The Lok Sabha last week gave its nod to the bill after 18 amendments were made to the proposed law that triples from Rs.500 crore to Rs.1,500 crore the liability cap on an operator in case of a nuclear accident.

The proposed law is critical for India's nuclear deals with various countries.

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