1. Nuclear liability: No obligation for small suppliers, says AEC chief

Nuclear liability: No obligation for small suppliers, says AEC chief

But major suppliers not to be absolved in case of any mishap

By: | New Delhi | Published: November 4, 2015 12:32 AM

India’s $234-million (Rs 1,500 crore) nuclear insurance pool will be in place shortly, and the issue of right to recourse against suppliers in case of accidents could be resolved contractually, says Shekhar Basu, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The move is expected to provide relief to small suppliers in the nuclear energy sector. However, the major suppliers, for instance companies building the reactors, will not be absolved if there is any mishap.

According to the AEC chairman, foreign nuclear plant suppliers were reluctant to sell their plants to India, citing provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLND) 2010 that provides the right of recourse to the operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) against suppliers.

“Indian reactors are erected under complete Indian supervision. There is no need to hold foreign suppliers responsible,” said Basu at an event organised by the India Energy Forum. Basu added, “Part fabricators or suppliers of a nuclear plant cannot be held responsible for the entire job in the event of an accident.”

Responding to media queries on the sidelines of the event, Basu, who has recently taken charge of AEC, said, “We could put it in writing in the suppliers’ contract that they have no such responsibility in case of an accident.”

“We have to make the contract condition in such a way that the right to recourse should not apply to an accident involving the entire nuclear plant,” he added.

Reinsurer GIC Re, four government-owned general insurers and also some private general insurers have provided the capacity to insure the risks to the tune of around Rs 1,000 crore and the balance Rs 500-crore capacity has been obtained from the Nuclear Risk Insurers of London. Despite the foreign contribution in the fund, there will be no foreign inspector inspecting the plants.

All the 21 operating nuclear power plants in India owned and operated by NPCIL are expected to come under public liability insurance cover. The insurance cover would also extend to the 1,000-MW nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, built with Russian equipment.

Earlier inaugurating the IEF Nuclear Conclave, Jitendra Singh, minister of state, department of atomic energy and Prime Minister’s Office, has announced that the government will shortly resolve the insurance issue and series of meeting were held on this issue.

The minister further said that the nuclear energy programme of the country is a evidence of Homi Bhabha’s mission that make India a frontrunner in the world in the field of nuclear energy.  However, he stressed on larger public awareness programme on nuclear energy in cooperation with the state government.

At present, nuclear reactors in India only have insurance cover for zones that are outside the area of radiation and reactors. The proposed pool will cover material damage and the civil liability arising out of any harm to the hot and cold zones of nuclear plants. Also, with the pool in place, the development of the long-pending Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana nuclear power plant in Haryana will move ahead.

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