The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010

  • The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010 or Nuclear Liability Bill is a bill to provide for civil liability for nuclear damage, appointment of Claims Commissioner, establishment of Nuclear Damage Claims Commission and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto
  • Although there is no international obligation for such a bill, in order to attract the US companies involved in nuclear commerce such as General Electric and Westinghouse, it is necessary to introduce a liability bill which would help these private companies in getting insurance cover in their home state. Thus, the bill helps in the realization of the Indo-U.S. Nuclear deal.
  • The bill required amendments in the Atomic Energy Act 1962 allowing private investment in the Indian nuclear power program.
  • The Liability Bill is designed to insulate suppliers from the risk of law suits by channeling legal liability for an accident entirely to the nuclear power plant operator and granting Indian courts sole jurisdiction over accident-related cases.
Controversial issues
  • The clause 7 defines the share of financial liability for each of the culpable groups. It states that the operator will have to pay Rs. 500 crore and the remaining amount will be paid by the Indian government. If written into the contract, the operator can claim the liabilities from the manufacturer and supplier. But the maximum amount payable by the foreign companies will be limited to a meagre sum of Rs. 1500 crore.
  • But Clause 17(b) of the bill also grants the operator of an Indian NPP the “right of recourse” against nuclear supplier companies if an accident results “from the willful act or gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services, or of his employee.” Such a right is not envisaged by the model law contained in the IAEA's Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC).
  • US fears that by using the loophole in Clause 17(b) in which the nuclear operator (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd - Indian Government itself) can sue a supplier for recovery of any compensation paid in the event of an accident if it believes the accident resulted from gross negligence on the part of the latter.American reactor suppliers want legal protection from a Bhopal type situation — where the victims of India's worst industrial accident filed multi-million dollar claims against Union Carbide Corporation in India and the U.S.
  • Clause 35 extends the legal binding that the responsible groups may have to face. The operator or the responsible persons in case of a nuclear accident will undergo the trial under Nuclear Damage Claims Commissions and no civil court is given the authority. The country will be divided into zones with each zone having a Claims Commissioner. This is in contrast to the US counterpart – the Price Anderson Act, in which lawsuits and criminal proceedings proceed under the US courts.
Recent News
  • July 19,2011 - US “encouraged” New Delhi to “engage” with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that the Indian nuclear liability law “fully conforms” with the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage.(The Hindu)