Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Nuclear Suppliers Liability and the 6 EPR reactors from France..

French President Sarkozy is upbeat on being able to sign nuclear deals worth $ 20 billion for 6 EPR ( Europen Pressurised Reactor) nuclear reactor of 1650 MW each capacity to be supplied and fabricated by Areva of France. France has also promised fuel for these reactors for the next twenty five years. About 85% of power generated in France is from nuclear power. From the existing 5000MW nuclear power generation in India, it will go upto 45000 MW by 2020, once these reactors are put in operation, this would not even make up 30% of our power requirements. Though no such power plants are in operation in the world anywhere, four such plants are under construction in different parts of the world.

The only hitch which is preventing the smooth sailing of this deal is the Nuclear Supplier's Liability which holds the suppliers responsible for nuclear accident due to any wilful negligence on the part of the supplier.Art 17B and art 46.

When Union Carbide could get away after leaking the potent MIC ( Methyl Iso Cyanate) in Bhopal's atmosphere in Dec 1984 leading to the loss of lives of 35,000 people, the lawmakers and people of India had already decided that they will never allow any such irresponsible MNCs who do not care for third world lives, to go scot free next time. When an oil spill on the American seas off Louisiana coast enraged US lawmakers who could extract $ 20 billion from the oil giant British Petroleum for causing minimal loss of human lives and for endangering marine life and the marine environment, should India turn its eyes off any wilful supplier negligence that can happen in future. For an already battered US economy, this was a windfall they have exploited to the fullest.
The offer of projects worth $ 20 billion is too big a temptation to be resisted by the French Govt.which will fall in line sooner than later. Any collaboration with India in the area of nuclear technology will also give them insights to the Thorium cycle which is much cheaper and efficient means of nuclear power generation in which India is at least fifty years ahead of other countries. The Uranium cycle of nuclear energy generation is expensive in comparison.



  1. The bottom line in the cases of a nuclear accident which will have impact demanding the application of the liability bill will involve lots of arbitration. The issue is bound to be subject to technical interpretation to decide whether the accident has been due to a human element or due a defective component. An analysis of the major accidents hitherto has lead to the conclusion that they have been mostly due to the former factor. Or the two factors compete with each other as in the case of the Chernobyl accident. So in the remote possibility of such an event there is going to be a good amount of wrangling in the interpretation of the cause of the accident and it will be extremely difficult to exactly pinpoint the failure of a component supplied by a foreign supplier.


  2. dr Iyer,

    your concerns are true. Safety is one aspect , operational mistakes or inappropriateness is another .. No one would be willing to accept their failings which will benefit the other party. True, it is going to be a hard nut to crack ..



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