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Home News Power Sector News US Pressure - Civil nuclear liability Bill likely in Parliament session

US Pressure - Civil nuclear liability Bill likely in Parliament session

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Indo US nuclear pactA Bill that limits the liability of a nuclear plant operator at Rs 300 crore in the eventuality of an accident and provides for appointing claims commissioner with powers of a civil court to arbitrate such cases is likely to be introduced in the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament. The Bill has already run into opposition from the CPI(M) that has reservations on nuclear plant operators being made to pay compensation instead of the suppliers. Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill pegs the maximum amount of liability in case of each nuclear accident at Rs 300 crore to be paid by the operator of the nuclear plant.

The passage of a civil nuclear liability Bill is one of key steps in implementation of the India-US civil nuclear agreement. The Bill was approved by the Union Cabinet on November 20 last and it is expected to be tabled in Parliament in the ongoing session.

However, the draft Bill also has provisions that would enable the Central government to either increase or decrease the amount of liability of any operator.

The operator would not be liable for any nuclear damage if the incident was caused by "grave national disaster of exceptional character", armed conflict or act of terrorism and suffered by person on account of his own negligence.

The Bill also provides for establishment of Nuclear Damage Claims Commission which will have one or more claims commissioners for a specified area.

It proposes that the claims commissioner shall have all powers of a civil court for the purpose of taking evidence on oath, enforcing attendance of witnesses, compelling the discovery and production of documents and other material objects.

Environment activists have described as a violation of fundamental rights the proposed attempt to cap the level of compensation of victims of a nuclear accident.

After award of compensation, the operator has the right to appeal in three cases, one of which is when the operator argues that the incident resulted from the "wilful act or gross negligence" of a supplier of material, equipment or services.

The right to claim compensation has a limit of 10 years from the date of incident. The exception is of stolen, lost, jettisoned or abandoned nuclear material, where the period is increased to 20 years.

Currently, the Atomic Energy Act 1962 allows the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India to operate nuclear power plants in the country.

India has entered into civil nuclear cooperation agreements with eight countries including France, Russia, the US and Kazakhstan. An agreement has also been finalised with Canada and is expected to be signed soon.

Source- Business Standard

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