With suppliers raising concerns over certain aspects of the Nuclear Liability Act, the Department of Atomic Energy has decided to look into these worries to weed out "unnecessary liability".
The DAE has formed two committees to find out a middle path on the controversial issue keeping in view the concerns of foreign companies and Indian Atomic Industrial Forum (IAIF), of which NPCIL and companies that manufacture components for nuclear power plants are a part.
Sources said the recommendations made by the committee could also help weed out "unnecessary liability" which may not be applicable to many suppliers. "There is ample degree of redundancy in the liability law, which cannot be applicable to all the suppliers. So this should be approached in a scientific and rational manner," a top DAE official told PTI.
The committees will study the liability factor and take a more "scientific and rational" approach towards the issue, the official said. "The committees will assess the probabilistic safety analysis to identify a model that will assess probabilities of particular equipment or a set of system to fail in a manner that can lead to an accident. Based on the study there would be a rational basis for working out an actuarial approval to decide on the quantum of liability," the official said.
One committee is studying the probabilities and will give its recommendations. It comprises four scientists- one from the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), two from the NPCIL and one from the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). The second committee comprises two scientists from NPCIL and one from the BARC. It will "peer review" the recommendations given by the first group. "The first committee has given a set of recommendations. The second committee that is peer-reviewing the recommendations had a few queries to which responses have been submitted. Once we get a report on this, we could take a decision at the administrative level," the official added.
Setting up of these committees assume significance as agreements with countries like Russia, US and France to set up nuclear plants are held up because of liability concerns.
India and Russia were to sign an agreement for providing two more nuclear reactors for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant Project (KKNPP) units 3 and 4. But this could not materialise as liability issues could not be resolved.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin have pledged to resolve the issue. The French, which is building 6 EPR reactors for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) in coastal Maharashtra have been vocal about the liability clause and have raised its concern with the DAE. The IAIF and foreign collaborators have also raised several objections. One of the most important aspect is "Right to Recourse".
Suppliers have raised concerns over sections 17 (a), (b) and (c) of the Nuclear Liability Act. These hold operator responsible in case of any accident. In turn, these also allow the operator (which is NPCIL) to sue the supplier for damages. "The concern raised by them (suppliers) is whether all the suppliers will be held responsible for the damage and for how long will liability clause be applicable after commissioning of the plant. "A nuclear plant constitutes of several components and these components are manufactured by different companies. If any accident occurs, where just one component fails, then one can not blame all the companies involved in the project," the DAE official added.
A member of IAIF told PTI, "The NPCIL puts the components under stringent tests before using it, so if they have tested the product successfully then how can they again blame the suppliers if anything goes wrong on the part of the operators (NPCIL). Many a time the NPCIL gives us the designs and the raw material and we just manufacture it." Time limit of the application of the liability clause is also debated as suppliers have told the DAE that they cannot be held responsible for infinite period.