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N-liability bill changes tough, no supplier will come: NPCIL

NPCIL said the provisions of Clause 17 (b) in the bill are "neither practical nor implementable".

Mumbai: While opposition parties see red in the latest amendments made to the nuclear liability bill, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has cautioned that under these changes no Indian or foreign manufacturer would be able to serve the nuclear power industry. Advocating the provisions of the Korean law in regard to right of recourse of the operator, Sudhinder Thakur, executive director at NPCIL said the provisions of Clause 17 (b) in the bill are "neither practical nor implementable".

In a statement, he said a review of domestic legislation of different countries reveals that the operators` right to recourse wherever available is limited to wilful act or gross negligence by the supplier. Citing the provision of the Korean Act, he said "clearly it is not the same in Clause 17 (b) (of the Indian bill)".

"Undoubtedly, the government has powers to make laws, but in the process of making such laws we should not defeat the purpose for which the laws are made since with the current formulation of 17b, no manufacturer, Indian or foreign would be able to serve the nuclear power industry," Thakur said. Drawing a parallel with the collision of two ships in off the Mumbai port, he said the operators of the ships have an absolute liability to cover the damages.

"We are not talking about the manufacturers of the ship or suppliers of different components to the ship," he said, adding that same was the case with the Bhopal gas tragedy. "The liability is on operator but not on supplier of the valve which did not function well.”

“This is between the operator and the supplier," he said. In the liability regime that came into being after Bhopal disaster, there is no recourse for the operator.

The rationale for attempts to introduce recourse for the nuclear industry is not understood, Thakur said. He said nuclear plants are not like commercial aircraft which are imported as equipment from overseas.

"In the process of setting up nuclear power plants, there are large numbers of suppliers who are contributing in varying degree and suppliers in turn have many sub-suppliers. They supply material according to the specifications of the operator and their obligations in terms of latent or patent defects, are incorporated in the respective contracts.”

"No supplier, Indian or foreign would be willing to take the liability on account of recourse of the operator for the period of some 80 odd years after the contract is executed. Under the circumstances, the provisions of 17b are neither practical nor implementable," Thakur said.

He welcomed the move to pass the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill to provide prompt compensation to victims of an unlikely nuclear accident. "In this respect it is a welcome move and has become a pre-requisite for rapid expansion of nuclear power in the country," Thakur said.