ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Flawed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill

All eyes are on how the government reworks the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.

Bowing to intense opposition pressure, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government withdrew the scheduled introduction of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill in Parliament. The reasons were understandable – the Bill, in its present form, had clauses that are not in the public interest, which the opposition criticised and promised not to permit its safe passage.

Provisions on compensation related to the capping of nuclear operator liability, the near absence of suppliers’ liability, and the maximum liability amount, among others, form the crux of the contentious issues in the Bill. In the event of a nuclear accident, a three-tier compensation structure has been envisaged in the Bill. The maximum amount of liability, in the event of a nuclear accident, has been fixed at 300 million Special Drawing Rights, equivalent to around Rs 2,100 crore, while the liability on the operator has been capped at Rs 500 crore, the difference to be footed by the government. Apart from this, the government intends to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Association that provides for supplementary compensation beyond the liability, from an international fund, contributed to by the states that are parties to it. Thus far though, only four countries – the United States being the only country with major nuclear installations – have ratified this convention and it is yet to be operational, for a minimum of five countries with an overall thermal power capacity of 4,00,000 MW are required to endorse it.

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