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    1Kumar SundaramJan 30, 2015

    We are deeply disturbed by media reports that the Indian government has capitulated to aggressive U.S. demands and agreed to a deal that indemnifies American nuclear vendors from the consequences of accidents caused by design defects in their reactors.

    Preliminary reports suggest that the government has agreed to create an insurance pool, backed by public sector companies, so that any potential American liability can be redirected back to Indian taxpayers. This creates a “moral hazard”, where the Indian people could end up being responsible for mistakes made by a multinational corporation.

    The 2010 Indian liability Act is already a weak law heavily biased towards the nuclear industry. It caps the total liability for an accident at a paltry Rs 1,500 crores and takes away the rights of victims to sue the supplier.  The much-discussed supplier liability is very limited: the government alone, as the operator, has a right of recourse against the vendor.

    So, we fail to understand the Modi government’s motivation for weakening this law even further.  The U.S. has nothing attractive to offer in terms of nuclear commerce. The Indian government has agreed to purchase the AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse, and the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) from General Electric. Both these designs are untested. The ESBWR technology is so immature that the design received certification from the U.S. nuclear regulatory commission—the first step before a reactor can be constructed—only last September.  Recent reports suggest that construction of AP1000 units has run into trouble in China.

    Independent estimates suggest that the cost of electricity from these reactors may exceed Rs. 15 per unit. This is much higher than the tariff from competing sources of electricity.

    Therefore, the reality behind the grandiose proclamations made by the Indian government is rather sobering. India has agreed to pay billions of dollars for immature American technology, and then ensured that American companies will not be held to account for any design defects.

    We hope that progressive forces and concerned citizens throughout the country will unite to oppose this disturbing development.

    Praful Bidwai,
    Achin Vanaik
    Lalita Ramdas
    Anil Chaudhary
    Suvrat Raju
    Abey George
    Abhishek Shrivastava
    Meher Engineer
    Ashish Kothari
    EAS Sarma
    N D Jayaprakash
    Sheba Chhachhi
    Aruna Roy
    Harsh Kapoor
    Satya Sivaraman
    Vidya Dinkar
    Pamela Philipose
    Zoya Hasan
    Anand Patwardhan
    Githa Hariharan
    Priyamvada Gopal
    Mohan Rao
    Sumit Sarkar
    Tanika Sarkar
    Anitha Sharma
    S P Shukla
    Rohan D’Souza
    S P Udayakumar
    Jammu Anand
    Nitasha Kaul
    Dwijen Rangekar