The French nuclear company Areva declined from clarifying its position on the issue of supplier's liability in the Indian civil nuclear liability law at a press briefing here on Thursday.

To a question at the briefing from The Hindu, which arose from the vague reply that the company's CEO, Anne Lauvergeon, gave in the interview with The Hindu correspondent Vaiju Naravane in Paris (The Hindu, Nov. 24), the company's executive vice president, Philippe Knoche, too continued to be evasive and would not make a categorical statement on the issue.

Technical discussions

The Areva is currently engaged in “technical discussions” with the nuclear power plant operator the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) with regard to the proposal of building two Areva's third generation nuclear reactor EPRs of 1,650 MWe capacity each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. The Areva official is visiting India to carry the negotiations forward.

The suppliers' liability aspect is built into the Indian law through the operator's ‘right of recourse' incorporated in Article 17 (a, b and c), which has not been favourably accepted by American equipment suppliers and analysts.

To the question ‘how much of a problem does the [Indian] Nuclear Liability Act [of 2010] pose [to Areva]?', Ms. Lauvergeon in her interview said: “[W]e feel this question [of liability] is manageable. We must not exaggerate the liability issue.” Mr. Knoche, on the other hand, said the Implementation Rules being currently framed under the Indian liability held the key to manage the issue but would not elaborate further.

“We are facing a specific situation in India,” he said again without stating what the specific situation or the contentious element was. “To what extent the liability law is a problem will be clear only when the rules of implementation are clear.”

Lifetime fuel supply

Once the contract is inked, it would take 7-9 yrs to complete the project from the date of signing the contract. The Areva has committed to supplying fuel for the lifetime of the reactors (up to 60 years) and will have an initial fuel contract for 20 years given the fluctuating uranium market price in view.