Nuclear Liability Bill tabled in Lok Sabha, controversial word dropped

Nuclear Liability Bill tabled in Lok Sabha, controversial word dropped

New Delhi: The main opposition party agreed on Wednesday to back a Bill to open up the country’s $150 billion nuclear power market after the government agreed to tougher provisions which an industry group said would hamper the sector’s growth.

The Bill is crucial for the entry of firms like US-based General Electric and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Japan’s Toshiba Corp, who are reluctant to step in without clarity on accident compensation.

The amended Bill will make it easier to extend liability claims to suppliers in case of a nuclear accident, removing a clause that would have permitted such claims only if there was proof of wilful intent to cause damage.

The Lok Sabha is currently discussing the Bill and support from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) means its passage appears almost certain.

“We’re happy that the government has incorporated all the suggestions of the BJP," Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a senior leader of the BJP, told reporters.

The BJP had reneged on a promise to back the bill, saying the provision on intent would make it difficult to extract compensation from suppliers, forcing the Congress party-led coalition government to remove it from the Bill.

The business lobby, Confederation of Indian Industry, said the bill would keep away domestic and foreign suppliers.

“Globally, there is no insurance coverage available for suppliers in the nuclear business," CII wrote in a letter to the government, which was released to the press on Wednesday.

“This will stall the growth of the nuclear manufacturing industry in India and be a setback for the government’s plan to indigenise maximum supplies for the foreign technology plants."