Friday, May 07, 2010

India Needs Nuclear Compensation System For Our Help

India Parliament Building
India's lower house of parliament has tabled the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage bill that would establish a nuclear accident compensation system that is needed in order for American companies to build reactors in India. Companies will need insurance for setting up nuclear reactors, so the law makes clear the compensation liability. Without insurance, the companies cannot pay the victims of a disaster. The liability legislation is one of the last steps needed to fully activate a landmark civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States that will allow American companies to set up reactors in India. The Center supports the legislation.

Opponents believe the bill takes away victims' rights to bring compensation claims to court in the event of a nuclear accident. The legislation seeks to place the burden of damages solely on the nuclear plant operator and not on suppliers of equipment. Opponents say the bill say that it places legal liability for mishaps on the state-run operator of the plant, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, and not on the private suppliers and contractors -- many of which would be foreign companies. The bill places a compensation cap of $100 million on the state-run operator and allows compensation directly from the Indian government of up to $450 million.

Proponents cite that there will be thousands of suppliers to a nuclear plant. If the victims have to go after each and every supplier, they will never get compensation. Proponents beleive the bill is a single-window system of compensation.

The 2008 nuclear accord allows India to access global nuclear technology and fuel supplies after more than three decades of international boycott, following the Indian atomic test in 1974. With the help of American, French and Russian nuclear companies, India hopes to generate 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2030 -- up from 1,700 megawatts currently.

India has no legislation to cover claims in the event of a nuclear accident. Of the 436 nuclear power reactors in the world, 416 are covered by liability laws. The exceptions are the 18 installations in India and two in its neighbor and rival, Pakistan. Until India passes a liability law, American companies such as GE and Westinghouse cannot begin operations there. (Wash Post, 5/7/2010)

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