It appears no lesson has been learnt from Bhopal or Fukushima: Greenpeace

The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Greenpeace have decried any move to accommodate U.S. demands for diluting nuclear liability norms when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets U.S. President Barack Obama on September 27.

The BJP described reports of India compromising on crucial clauses in the Nuclear Liability Act on fixing liability as “worrisome” and wondered whether Dr. Singh was permitting this to happen as a gift to American companies during his U.S. visit.

“The reported media observation that the government is trying to compromise the importance of Section 17 (b) of the Act passed by Parliament is a cause of serious concern,” said senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Section 17 (b) specifically fixes the responsibility of the manufacturers of nuclear reactors and provides for their liability in the event of an accident involving design or manufacturing fault.

“By this, the whole liability of the manufacturer is sought to be compromised and the entire mandate of Parliament is being disobeyed,” Mr. Prasad alleged.

The CPI(M) warned against an “illegal attempt to bypass the law passed by Parliament. Irrespective of the written contract [that NPCIL might sign with the American vendor Westinghouse], the right to recourse and the liability of the supplier will apply if there is supply of faulty material or equipment.”

Greenpeace said even if there was no right to recourse written into the contract, 17(b) provided for the right to recourse if the accident was caused by faulty material or equipment provided by the supplier.

“Hence, irrespective of the written contract, the right to recourse and the liability of the supplier will apply if there is supply of faulty material or equipment,” said Greenpeace Executive Director Samit Aich.

Mr. Aich said the government had made every effort to dilute this law, whether by drafting rules that had been dismissed by the Standing Committee on subordinate legislation or through an attempt to provide an exit for foreign suppliers in contract mode. “It appears we have learnt no lessons from Bhopal or Fukushima where a renewed discussion on liability is under way. Instead of safeguarding the landmark Indian law, this is a blatant violation of supplier liability that is being proposed.”

Sushanta Talukdar reports from Guwahati

BJP president Rajnath Singh said the Prime Minister should come out with a clarification on the issue. It was unfortunate that the Atomic Energy Commission had been bypassed by the government while proposing to dilute the nuclear liability provisions, he said.

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