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.
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs