Responding to a Financial Express Online query related to the status of the long pending industrial cooperation, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla termed the discussions positive and confirmed that the relevant authorities are in touch.
US-based Westinghouse and state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) continue to have discussions on how to proceed forward to build six 1100 MW reactors at Kovvada, AP. Responding to a Financial Express Online query related to the status of the long pending industrial cooperation, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla termed the discussions positive and confirmed that the relevant authorities are in touch. “NPCIL, which deals with issues concerning the running and maintenance of nuclear reactors in India, is talking with Westinghouse.”
Adding, “The two are discussing how to proceed further. There are obviously some positive moments; however, there are issues that need to be addressed including liability and so on.”
In February 2020, India and the US were expected to sign a MoU at the end of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the former US President Donald Trump who had visited the country. Since issues related to India’s nuclear liability law remained unresolved, there was no MoU signed.
The US based Westinghouse had offered modular construction methodology for building reactors in India, and timelines too had been set for the project and according to sources the liability concerns were being addressed.
Last year, there were several rounds of discussions between the officials from the Westinghouse, US energy and commerce departments, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, NPCIL and several others to resolve the pending issues.
India has plans to give up fossil fuels and by 2031 to triple nuclear power capacity by generating around 22,480 MW of electricity from nuclear stations.
Know more about the Nuclear Operator Liability issue
Among the three most important issues that were holding up the implementation of the Civil Nuclear deal included the demand of the US to track the nuclear materials it will supply to India, the right to sue the suppliers and most importantly Section 46 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage act 2020. The clause in the Indian Nuclear Liability Law provides the victim with Tort Remedies.
The law of the land also states clearly that the operator of the nuclear plant will be liable to pay around Rs 1,500 crore in case there is an accident.
Under 17 (b) of the Act, the Operator has the “right to recourse.’’
In case of India, NPCIL, under the Department of Atomic Energy, operates all nuclear power plants in the country. It has the right to sue the suppliers.
Both Westinghouse and NPCIL have been negotiating for almost a decade. However, all talks were put on hold as the US based company had declared bankruptcy in 2017. Following which India reached out to the parent Japanese company Toshiba and sought its help in resolving the issue.
While the techno-commercial negotiations are at an advanced stage, the talks with the US – Exim Bank for a loan of USD 9 billion for building the reactors are stuck.