After years of deadlock on liability, India and Russia have signed an agreement for building units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant project (KKNPP) at a cost of Rs. 33,000 crore.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) signed a General Framework Agreement (GFA) with its Russian counterpart on Thursday, sources said here on Friday.
However, some permissions are required from Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AREB) before work on the project could actually start, they said.
Units 3 and 4 of the KKNPP have stuck over the “Right to Recourse” Clause of the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010 (CLND) as the Russians have been apprehensive over it.
In October last year, the deal could not be signed over the same issue when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Russia due to lack consensus over the issue between both the countries.
However, the issue has been sorted out after hectic negotiations.
Last month, DAE secretary R.K. Singh along with other senior officers of the department had a meeting here with the Russian counterparts in which the breakthrough was made.
Things were expedited and the proposal was moved before the Cabinet Committee on Security last month. The atomic energy department wanted to seek permission of the Election Commission as polls were declared a week later.
“We wanted to play safe and did not want any kind of hurdle as the project has already been delayed for a long time,” the sources said.
“KKNPP 1 and 2 also got commissioned during the Manmohan Singh tenure and the government wanted this agreement to be signed at the earliest,” the sources added.
In its ten-year tenure, the UPA government has signed nuclear deals with US, UK, France, Kazakhstan, South Korea for exchange of technology on nuclear issues and import of good quality uranium required for nuclear plants. Unit 1 of KKNPP was also commissioned during the UPA regime.
However, there are several impediments in KKNPP, to which the government has not found a solution. Despite the signing of the agreement, it is still unclear on how will the government sort out liability issue.
Under the CLND act, it is mandatory to have an insurance of over Rs 1500 crore, which could be used as compensation in case of any nuclear accident.
The General Insurance Company (GIC), with which the government is planning to tie-up with, has said that it has not yet offered any kind of insurance to units 3 and 4 of the KKNPP. This leaves the government with little options on getting the reactors insured.
Units 3 and 4 of KKNPP will be coming up in Tamil Nadu’s coastal district of Tirunelveli which has already seen large scale protests. S P Udayakumara led People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) undertook several agitations with fishing hamlets in the country. Questions were also raised on who was funding this agitation.
Interestingly, the anti-nuclear activist is also contesting election from Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat on the same plank.