House panel suggests changes in N-liability rules

A Parliamentary committee on Tuesday suggested incorporating certain key changes in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage rules, 2011, to clarify how much time an Indian operator of a nuclear power plant will have, to seek compensation from foreign suppliers in case of a nuclear accident.

 While the existing rules, notified in November, 2011, give an operator up to five years to seek compensation from suppliers of nuclear instruments, the Committee on Subordinate Legislation wants the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to extend the time limit beyond the first five years, which is the initial licensing period. Currently, the operator running the nuclear power plant takes over all responsibilities after the first five years.

The committee said in its present form, the liability rules defeated the very purpose of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, which came into being on November 11, 2011.
 It did not accept DAE’s argument that extending the time period beyond five years will increase the project cost as suppliers will take insurance for the extended period and the cost of insurance premium will be added to the equipment cost. 

 “The committee is of the firm view that rule 24 (on operator’s right to recourse) has inserted limitations not mandated by the CLND Act, 2010. The committee exhorts DAE to amend rule 24 to remove the limitations imposed on liability, as well as duration of the liability period,” it said in a report tabled in Parliament.

 The House committee headed by CPM MP P Karunakaran wanted few provisions in the rules modified and at least one amendment to the act defining “supplier” in nuclear commerce. It criticised DAE for its delay in framing the rules, which led to the delay in enforcing the act.

 Though its recommendations are not binding on the government, DAE may incorporate the amendments as suggested by the House committee and file a report in Parliament during the winter session. The long-awaited report, however, does not completely clear the air on uncertainties on nuclear liability issues. “New uncertainties have been introduced, which DAE will have to address,” sources said.

 Lack of clarity on nuclear issues is one of the important factors in delaying conclusion of an important agreement between India and France, as well as one between New Delhi and Moscow, for importing large reactors.

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