Energy-hungry India ratifies international convention on nuclear liability

India nuclear liability

As India continues entering into nuclear agreements with a host of countries, it has taken a major step forward by ratifying an international convention on nuclear accident liability.  The Indian government submitted the document to ratify the Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on February 4.

Leading makers of nuclear reactor such as General Electric had earlier expressed their reluctance to set up plants in India,  after a 2010 liability law in India makes equipment suppliers potentially accountable for accidents, and not just the plant operators as is the global norm.

India is looking to increase the the share of nuclear power in its overall energy mix, and have sealed bilateral civil nuclear agreements with more than half a dozen countries around the world, including the US, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia.

However, after the liability law in 2010, the country’s target to raise the share from barely 3 percent to 25 percent by 2050 took a hit. India has been trying to assuage the fears of the nuclear suppliers.  Showing flexibility, India launched an insurance pool in 2015 with a liability cap of 15 billion Indian rupees ($225 million) to cover the suppliers’ risk of potential liability.

The convention seeks to establish a uniform global legal regime for the compensation of victims in the event of a nuclear accident. “This marks a conclusive step in the addressing of issues related to civil nuclear liability in India,” India’s external affairs ministry said, after handing over the document to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

India plans to construct about 60 nuclear reactors to meet its burgeoning energy requirements. India has been in talks with Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, GE as well as France’s Areva for allotting them sites, which they have already selected around the country.

Russia is already building six reactors in south India separately. India and Russia are in talks for building six more reactors. The value of the Indian nuclear energy market is estimated at $150 billion.

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