N-plant operator’s liability may be unlimited: Subbarami Reddy

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

KALPAKKAM - A parliamentary panel deliberating on the civil nuclear liability bill is looking at increasing the cap on the operator’s liability or even removing it, its chairman said Wednesday.

The standing committee on science and technology is also considering providing recourse to the plant operator to claim damages for liability suffered from the equipment suppliers.

“The committee is delving into each and every aspect of the bill. On the issue of capping the operator’s liability, the committee is considering various aspects, including making the operators liability unlimited,” committee chairman T. Subbarami Reddy told IANS here.

The committee members are here to visit the various atomic energy facilities.

The government had referred the controversial civil nuclear liability bill to the parliamentary panel after it faced fierce protests from opposition parties over the proposed cap on compensation, after it was introduced in parliament in May.

According to Reddy, 28 countries in the world have their own nuclear liability laws. Only India does not have one.

“We are taking all efforts to make the bill perfect and transparent in all aspects,” Reddy said.

He said the committee is striving to submit its report within the six-week time given.

“Originally we were given four weeks time. We got an extension of two weeks which will expire soon.”

Stressing the importance of nuclear power to meet India’s growing power needs, Reddy said: “It is important to have different energy sources to meet our growing power needs. Countries like France, Russia and Germany meet their major power needs from nuclear source.”

Noting that the country’s 4,500 MW capacity of nuclear power is built with indigenous equipment, he added: “To meet the target of 40,000 MW by 2020 it is necessary to have global participation.”

Reddy said the Committee has advertised in newspapers, calling for people’s views on the bill. It has been hearing the views of NGOs, atomic power experts and environmentalists among others.

“Government officials from various ministries too have presented their views as the bill has implications for various government departments,” he added.

On the controversial note submitted to the Committee by Atomic Energy Chairman Srikumar Banerjee proposing deletion of the provision in the bill that provides the atomic power operator recourse to the equipment vendor to claim damages, Reddy said: “He had suggested some amendments for which he has no authority. However, it is for the Committee to agree or disagree with the contents of the note.”

Speaking to IANS on condition of anonymity, a committee member said: “We are scanning each and every provision of the bill. One of the provisions is that no civil court can entertain a liability claim case. This cannot be so.”

According to him, in case of a liability the operator has to make the settlement first and may have recourse to his vendor for damages.

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