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India to adjust nuclear power bill

Oct. 13, 2010 at 1:34 PM   |   Comments

NEW DELHI, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- India is drafting new regulations for its civilian nuclear liability bill, with the hopes of securing deals with U.S. nuclear suppliers ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India next month, an Indian official said.

The bill, passed in late August, limits nuclear reactor operator liability following an atomic disaster to about $320 million and allows lawsuits against suppliers of nuclear materials, technology and services.

Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the new rules would alleviate the concerns of foreign suppliers.

"We'll clarify what the responsibilities of suppliers will be," Chavan told The Wall Street Journal. "There will be some responsibilities but they won't be liable for 80 years, as some people are interpreting the law. I hope at the end of the day we'll have an acceptable solution."

In addition to plans for new regulations to be drafted, India's Nuclear Power Corp. announced Tuesday that it would engage the services of international law firms to explain certain clauses in the bill to the United States in advance of Obama's visit.

"The U.S. has perhaps not interpreted the law properly," Jagdeep Ghai, director of finance for the NPC told reporters, India's Press Trust reports.

"We are hopeful that their doubts and fears will be put to rest and things will fall in place, and serious discussions will commence," he said.

India's civil nuclear market opened up in 2008, when a landmark agreement between India and the United States ended three decades of sanctions imposed on New Delhi for conducting nuclear tests.

The civilian nuclear liability bill paves the way for American and other foreign companies to gain a foothold in India's nuclear energy market, which could exceed $150 billion in coming years.

India currently generates 3 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy but it aims to increase nuclear power capacity to 35 gigawatts from 4.5 gigawatts by 2020.

Yet the issue of liability continues to stall progress.

"We will not be able to support nuclear programs in countries where the nuclear liability regime is not consistent with international norms," said Michael Tetuan, a spokesman for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"We hope the liability issue will be resolved and that the benefits of the historic agreement to support nuclear power development between India and the U.S. governments will be realized."

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