India ready to clarify further on nuclear liability

India ready to clarify further on nuclear liability

India is ready to provide more clarifications on its nuclear liability law to the United States, when External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and American Secretary of State, John Kerry, co-chair the annual strategic dialogue in New Delhi next Monday.

Washington is keen to speed up the negotiation between US firm Westinghouse Electric Company LLC and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited for an “early works agreement” to build a 1,000 MWe atomic power plant at Mithivirdi in Gujarat. The talks on the agreement is currently stuck, as Westinghouse still has some concerns over Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of India and sought certain clarifications from the NPCIL.

Official sources in New Delhi said that India already had a series of discussions with the US on the issue of liability, including a very detailed session on the law and its legal implications. New Delhi, however, would be ready to have more discussions both with the American government and the US nuclear companies.

The delay in implementing  the landmark India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement is one of the issues, which are likely to be discussed, when Khurshid and Kerry would co-chair the fourth bilateral strategic dialogue. Kerry is reaching New Delhi on Sunday on his maiden visit to India after succeeding Hillary Clinton as the US Secretary of State. He is expected to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apart from holding talks with Khurshid.

The Westinghouse and NPCIL on June 13 last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to negotiate an early works agreement supporting future construction of an AP1000 reactor at Mithivirdi in Gujarat. The agreement is expected to include preliminary licensing and cover site development works.

The launch of the negotiation on the agreement was the first significant progress towards implementation of the landmark India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2008.
The Westinghouse representatives have since been negotiating with the NPCIL officials and the last round took place in Mumbai in May. 

New Delhi conveyed it to Washington that it would be ready to provide further clarification on the nuclear liability law to expedite the Westinghouse-NPCIL negotiation on the EWA. “We have a law in place. That law has to be implemented. Within the four corners of that law whatever clarification the Americans require we will be happy to provide it,” an official told Deccan Herald on Tuesday.

The US nuclear companies are not happy with India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, which came into force in 2010.

The Congress-led government buckled under pressure from the BJP and other Opposition parties and introduced 18 amendments before the bill was passed by Parliament, including the ones ensuring liability of the nuclear plants suppliers in case of a mishap occurring as a consequence of latent or patent defect in the equipment supplied by them or due to sub-standard services provided by them or because of gross negligence by them.

The US in the past few years repeatedly expressed concerns over India’s stringent liability regime pointing out that it was not in conformity with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) and would make the business unviable for companies based in America. New Delhi signed the CSC on October 27 last year, but has not yet ratified it.

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