COALITION FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT AND PEACE

Statement on Circumvention of Supplier’s Liability under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010

November 18, 2011

The Government of India has come up with the rules for implementation of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010. In formulating the rules, the government has undermined the spirit of the Act, diluting the already limited ‘right of recourse’ of the operator against the nuclear suppliers.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act passed in the Parliament in 2010, under its Section 17, provides for ‘right of recourse’ whereby the operator can demand liability from the supplier.

Now promulgated rules go to seriously undermine this provision and specify that the ‘right of recourse’ “shall be for the duration of initial licence issued under the Atomic Energy (Radiation protection) Rules of 2004, or the product liability period, whichever is longer.” Thereby it negates the implicit original provision that the ‘right to recourse’ will be available to the operator vis-a-vis the supplier during the whole lifetime of the equipment and limits it to only a fraction of it – it could be as short as 5 years whereas the life of a nuclear reactor is expected to be 30-40 years. Moreover, the cap on the operator’s liability and consequently the supplier’s liability is fixed at a paltry Rs 1,500 crore, which is a small fraction of the cost of a large reactor, and an even smaller proportion of the likely damage from a nuclear accident.

Foreign nuclear suppliers, mainly the US but also Russia and France, have been pressurising the Indian government to exempt them from any such liability. The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself had recently called for amending the Liability Act and ensuring that it complies with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. Indian corporate lobby too has been prodding the government to dilute the supplier’s liability provision.

We find this latest development entirely unacceptable. It does seriously tamper with the Liability Act as passed by the Indian parliament by means of underhand subterfuge. The Government of India, as it appears, bowing to the dictates of foreign and domestic corporate lobbies, has grievously undermined the Liability Act.

The CNDP demands that the rules are immediately put in tandem with the original Act so that the ‘right to recourse’ is available to the operator vis-a-vis the supplier for any equipment/material during its entire lifetime.

 

For CNDP
Achin Vanaik
Admiral (Rtd.) L Ramdas
Sukla Sen
Amarjeet Kaur
N D Jayaprakash
Anil Chaudhary