News / Asia

India’s Nuclear Liability Law Slows Power Plant Rollouts

FILE - A man stands with his son on the beach near the Kudankulam nuclear power project in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
FILE - A man stands with his son on the beach near the Kudankulam nuclear power project in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anjana Pasricha
— In India, a Russian-built nuclear power station has begun generating power, raising hopes that it will ease energy shortages in the south. But the country’s ambitious plans to ramp up its nuclear power capacity are not panning out as expected.

The Kudankulam nuclear plant in southern Tamil Nadu state went online Tuesday by transmitting 160 megawatts of power to the local grid. In the coming weeks it will gradually be scaled up to its full capacity of 1000 megawatts to light up homes and industries.

However, hopes of boosting Kudankulam’s capacity even further suffered a setback this month during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Moscow.

Proponents hoped he would sign a deal to purchase two new nuclear reactors, each 1000 megawatts. But negotiations are stuck due to the strict civil nuclear liability law that India adopted in 2010 under pressure from the opposition and activists.

Foreign suppliers worry that this law disproportionately burdens sellers of nuclear technology with compensation payments in the case of an accident. They say India’s liability law is not consistent with international nuclear policies.

Despite the delay, Indian officials sound optimistic about getting the reactors from Russia and say they hope to iron out the differences in the coming months.

G. Balachandran at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis says India has tried to address some of the concerns by putting a cap on the liability of foreign suppliers in the event of a nuclear mishap.     

“When they [India] formulated the rules, they limited it to a five year period during which the right of recourse can be exercised. Not indefinite. They said it is not for unlimited amount. So they will be limited to a liability of 250 million dollars for a period of only five years,” said G. Balachandran.

India has long hoped that nuclear power is the answer to its energy woes. The landmark agreement New Delhi struck with the United States in 2008 lifted a three decade long ban on nuclear trade. The deal was expected to lead to investment of nearly $150 billion in India’s nuclear energy sector from countries like Russia, France and the United States.

But so far there has been little progress. Last month, India signed a preliminary contract with U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. to purchase nuclear reactors.

Many analysts blame the liability law for slowing negotiations. Balachandran says foreign suppliers fear that other countries could cite India’s precedent to seek similar guarantees.

“That is the only small impediment I can see in the way of foreign companies saying I don’t want this to become a universal norm. Because that is true, all the other countries have passed a law which does not have right of recourse,” said Balachandran.   

The slowdown in the nuclear sector is a setback for a country which had hoped to scale up nuclear power from less than 5,000 megawatts 63,000 megawatts in 20 years to close the huge gap in its energy needs.  

There are other problems besides the liability law. Concerns have been growing among local communities about nuclear power safety in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. The Kudankulam nuclear project was repeatedly delayed due to protests by villagers living in the plant’s vicinity. The plant only came online after India’s Supreme Court ruled this May that the plant was safe and necessary for the country’s economic growth.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid