Sunday, 31 October 2010

India’s signing of IAEA nuclear liability treaty a move to please US: Analysts

India’s signing of IAEA nuclear liability treaty a move to please US: Analysts
Posted by K4Kashmir on October 31, 2010 in India | 0 Comment Edit
India’s signing of IAEA nuclear liability treaty a move to please US: Analysts
Thursday, 28 October 2010 15:18 Sujoy Dhar

Vienna/New Delhi, Oct 28: Ahead of Barack Obama’s November visit, India on Wednesday sent a positive signal to the US authorities as it signed the IAEA’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) treaty, which seeks to establish a uniform global legal regime for the compensation of victims in the event of a nuclear accident.

Analysts say the move is more a symbolic gesture ahead of Obama’s visit to India since the US suppliers were upset with India’s tough domestic legislation on nuclear liability in August.

The Indian legislation is seen as a deterrence for the firms to enter India’s civil nuclear business, estimated as possibly reaching $150 billion a year.

India in 2008 signed a landmark civil nuclear deal with United States but its implementation hit a roadblock owing to mounting opposition from Indian political groups following a verdict by court on the Bhopal gas disaster that was soft on the US corporation responsible for the accident in 1984.

Indian Ambassador to Austria, Mr. Dinkar Khullar, signed the CSC on Wednesday in Vienna at a brief ceremony held at IAEA headquarters, according to officials.

“The signing by India is under US pressure. This is more a symbolic gesture that the US administration perhaps wanted to convince their corporations after the tough domestic legislation on nuclear liability in India,” said political analyst and senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

“After the Bhopal verdict the Indian government had to enact the tough law bowing before the mood in the country,” Mr. Guha Thakurta said.

At the moment four States have signed and ratified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s convention – Argentina, Morocco, Romania and the United States.

India’s signing brings a total of 14 States as current signatories to the Convention. The Convention is set to enter into force on the ninetieth day after date of ratification by at least five States who have a minimum of 400,000 units of installed nuclear capacity.

America’s General Electric Co. and Westinghouse Electric Corp. are among the foreign energy suppliers that stand to gain a share of India’s civilian nuclear business.

American companies consider a liability cap particularly important because, unlike the state-subsidized French and Russian nuclear suppliers, they are not underwritten by their government.

India’s main opposition group, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supported the nuclear liability bill in India after 18 amendments, though left-wing parties continued to oppose the bill.
The bill was amended by the Congress party led government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to cap damages that nuclear suppliers would pay in the event of an accident at 15 billion Indian rupees (about $320 million) — three times the earlier proposal of 5 billion rupees (about $107 million), which Indian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Science and Technology denounced as ridiculously low.

According to IAEA, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage or CSC is consistent with principles set forth in previous international agreements governing nuclear liability, including the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy.

It provides a bridge between these two regimes, is open to States that are party to neither of these two regimes, and establishes an international fund to increase the amount available to compensate victims.

The CSC also allows for compensating civil damage occurring within a State’s exclusive economic zone, including loss of tourism or fisheries related income.

It also sets parameters on a nuclear operator’s financial liability, time limits governing possible legal action, requires that nuclear operators maintain insurance or other financial security measures and provides for a single competent court to hear claims.

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