India Nuclear Liability Issue Seen by U.S. as Blocking Exports

  • Foreign equipment suppliers have been hesitant to enter nation
  • Nuclear liability issues have ``been one of the key blockers''

U.S. nuclear technology exports to India have been stymied by the South Asian nation’s liability laws, according to a U.S. diplomat.

The liability issue has “been one of the key blockers” for U.S. companies supplying technology, Catherine Novelli, U.S. Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, said in an interview in Tokyo. “The more things can be clarified, the better in terms of making an environment that is attractive for U.S. companies.”

India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act has complicated efforts to spur the country’s use of atomic power as international equipment makers fear it would leave them liable for any accidents. Since its enactment in 2010, the country has taken steps to convince foreign suppliers that its law adhere to international standard, including its ratification in February of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, also known as the CSC.

Whether India has done enough “is going to be a question that companies are going to have to evaluate,” Novelli said.

Westinghouse Electric Co. said in February that India’s law still leaves technology suppliers liable for accidents, while Electricite de France SA said it was awaiting more information from the government.

“A fundamental incompatibility between India’s civil liability law and international conventions limits foreign technology provision,” the World Nuclear Association said on its website.

Last year, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached an agreement aimed at limiting equipment suppliers’ liability. As part of the accord, India established a 15 billion rupee ($225 million) insurance pool.

The U.S. “made extreme progress in an agreement that would allow those exports to take place in a way that would deal with liability issues,’’ Novelli said.

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