A week ago, the Union government ratified the International Convention for Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage and handed it over to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAE).
The convention was signed by the UPA government in 2010 amid huge opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently leading the government.
Effectively, this would increase monetary resources to pay for damages for any nuclear accident, but has to be paid by the operator and not the supplier. In reality, the operator is the government and damages has to be paid by taxpayers.
Fact is, India has a huge energy requirement but not the capacity to meet that. Take a loook at these numbers:
The result: India needs to rely on foreign help, seek technological cooperation from Russia, France and Japan.
However, in the past there have been agitation over the Kudankulam project and political upheavals on Indo-US nuclear deal that even led to the withdrawal of support by the Left from the government.
This is where the recent ratification comes into play. Foreign players, ever alert about their liability, stands happy.
The nuclear sector in India is plagued with low outputs and erratic uranium supply.
Also, there are too many stakeholders - Nuclear Power Corp, AERB, the Department of Atomic Energy, the Atomic Energy Commission. With too many hurdles it is indeed an impediment for foreign players.
The targets set looks distant. Princeton University lecturer MV Ramana has described India's nuclear programme as "very unlikely and probably impossible".
But India is on a deal-signing spree: 12 reactors were confirmed during Prime minister Narendra Modi's December 2015 visit.
However, liability laws remain a problem. India has already created a Rs 500 crore fund for suppliers (foreign companies). But the it correct for only the operator (the state) to bear the expenses in case of a disaster? The question remains.
Edited by Joyjeet Das
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