Ahead of Sarkozys visit, France sends feelers on N-liability

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 3 2010, 05:48am hrs
Ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozys visit here over the weekend, Paris, which is in the process of finalising the framework for an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation with India, has told New Delhi the rules should be in conformity with international standards.

Discussions on the tricky issue are going on and the Indian has been told the French suppliers of nuclear equipment should be assured of legal security and its civil liability law should conform to international standards, sources said here.

France is understood to have conveyed that India must ensure the legal security of French suppliers of nuclear equipment and its civil liability law should be in conformity with international standards.

Sarkozy is expected to put across this message when he holds wide-rang talks with PM Manmohan Singh on Monday, sources said.

According to sources, It is expected that if these issues were sorted out, the framework agreement between the French nuclear company Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) for building two European pressurised reactors (EPR) could be signed during Sarkozys visit.

It is envisaged that Areva would initially build two nuclear reactors, which will increase to six. The 10,000-mwJaitapur Nuclear Power plant in Maharashtra got environmental clearance last week.

It maybe noted that France was the first country to sign a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact with India on September 30, 2008, after the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted New Delhi a one-time exemption to enable it to start global nuclear trade.

The framework agreement is expected to lay down broad rules for Areva initially building two nuclear reactors, which will eventually increase to six in number.

The agreement between Areva and NPCIL is likely to be a commercial kind of agreement, said TP Seetharam, joint secretary (Europe-West) in the external affairs ministry.

But in addition, for all this to be facilitated, it may be necessary to have some government-to-government agreements for such arrangements, such as the confidentiality agreement and intellectual property rights, etc, which are also being looked at, said Seetharam.

Areva, which plans to set up two atomic power plants of 1,650 mw capacity each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, has made it clear that it is awaiting notification of implementing rules of the nuclear liability law to know the extent of the compensation it will have to pay in case of an atomic accident in the facilities it sets up.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Law passed by Parliament recently, caps the liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs 1,500 crore (approximately $320 million).