The government is expected to notify the much-awaited rules on nuclear liability before the winter session of Parliament — once the ongoing inter-ministerial consultations over the matter are over, a top official said on Thursday.
Subsequently, these rules, which are necessary to be notified following the enactment of Nuclear Liability Bill, would be laid down in Parliament, according to Ravi Grover, principal adviser to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).
“Rules don’t change the Nuclear Liability Act passed by Parliament (in August last year). Instead, they will explain the provisions in the law. They are not at all draconian,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the international nuclear summit here. Grover said the government hoped to notify these rules before the next Parliament session. “Laying of these rules in Parliament is necessary, as MPs, within the 30 calender days, can raise objections, if any, against the rules,” he informed.
Grover’s announcement coincides with the United States asking India to take necessary steps to ensure that the pertinent Bill conforms to international standards.
The issue was raised earlier this week by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her meeting with External Affairs minister SM Krishna in New York.
Washington desired India can move forward quickly in this regard. India’s nuclear liability regime has become a sticking point in the full implementation of the landmark India-US nuclear deal, with American companies reluctant to do business under the tough compensation legislation passed by the Indian Parliament. US wanted India to ensure that its nuclear liability regime conforms with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.
Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee confirmed that rules would be laid down in Parliament during the next session.
Indian industry representatives aren’t too comfortable about the various provisions of the Act. To them, making the supplier liable for any intended or mala-fide action causing damage would adversely impact the participation of Indian industry not only in future programmes, but also in supporting or servicing the present 20 nuclear power plants, as well as other nuclear installations operating within the country.
They believe that Clause 17 is neither implementable nor justified. They fear that any Civil Nuclear Liability (CNL) claim on suppliers and service providers, beyond their terms of supply — that is for 60 years of plan life plus claim liability period of 20 years — would make impossible their participation in the future.
Yet, some of them are optimistic. L&T board member M V Kotwal and GR Srinivasan, who is advisor to GMR for nuclear power business, hope that the rules would enable the industry to address its concerns.