New Delhi: For US private companies involved in nuclear commerce, to come to India, it is necessary to pass the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, also known as Nuclear Liability Bill. In case a nuclear accident occurs, the bill defines the financial and legal liabilities upon the involved groups — manufacturers, operators and the government.
The bill is faced with opposition in India because the original draft had capped liability at about $110 million, rather less than international conventions.
With the backdrop of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, India is especially sensitive towards things such as compensation and other legalities in case of an accident.
The opposition from the BJP and Left Parties led the government to set up a panel to examine the bill, which eventually suggested that the liability cap on the operator be fixed at $320 million.
The government is keen on ratifying the bill and smoothing entry for global firms.
A timeline of the bill follows:
October 2008: India, US sign 123 Agreement. Then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice put the final seal on the agreement paving the way for entry of American companies into the Indian nuclear market. read story
January 2009: Intense lobbying begins for the $160 billion nuclear business pie that India offers. US and India hold high-level discussions to explore business opportunities. read more
November 2009: US companies like GE plan to build nuclear power plants in India, following the landmark agreement. read story
March 2010: The bill sparks debate in India. By seeking to shield foreign reactor builders from the weight of the financial consequences of severe accidents, the Bill shifts the main burden for accident liability from the foreign supplier to the Indian taxpayer. read more
15 March 2010: Th bill was supposed to be introduced in Parliament, but the government backs off as the opposition parties protest over the limited liability that energy firms would face in case of accidents. read more
12 April 2010: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met US President Barack Obama and discussed the controversial bill. Officials said that Singh informed Obama that the nuclear liability bill is going through democratic processes. read story
12 August 2010: UPA decides to re-examine the bill. The parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, headed by Congress lawmaker T Subbarami Reddy, to come up with report in two days. read story
18 August 2010: Parliamentary panel recommended the liability cap be trebled to $320 million. The recommendations meant higher costs for firms such as General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, which would have to pay higher insurance premiums. read story
20 August 2010: Cabinet clears nuclear liability bill. It is likely to be placed in parliament tomorrow. read story