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France echoes US, wants changes in India’s N-Bill
Says civil liability law must adhere to global standards
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 2
Like the Americans, the French too are asking India to bring its civil nuclear liability rules in conformity with international norms.

Sarkozy coming tomorrow

l Dec 4: Begins trip from Bangalore with a visit to ISRO.

l Dec 5: Sarkozys to head for Agra, Fatehpur Sikri. In the evening, Manmohan Singh will host a private dinner for them in New Delhi.

l Dec 6: To call on President Pratibha Patil, hold talks with the Prime Minister.

l Dec 7: To travel to Mumbai, visit Police Memorial of 26/11, participate in a business meet.

This has been conveyed by France to New Delhi ahead of French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to India from Saturday, sources today said.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Law passed by the Indian Parliament caps the liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs 1,500 crore. New Delhi says there is no question of amending the legislation, contending that it provides a level-playing field to all nuclear players desirous of entering the huge civil nuclear market in this country. India has, meanwhile, also signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) on nuclear damages with the IAEA.

The two countries are finalising a framework agreement for civil nuclear cooperation. France is learnt to have told India that it must ensure the legal security of French suppliers of nuclear equipment and its civil liability law should be in conformity with international standards. Sarkozy is expected to convey this to the Indian side when he holds wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, the sources said, adding that discussions on a framework civil nuclear cooperation agreement were going on.

If discussions are wrapped up by then, the framework agreement between the French nuclear giant Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) for building two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) could be signed during Sarkozy's visit. The framework agreement is expected to lay down broad rules for Areva, which is initially likely to build two nuclear reactors and eventually take that number to six. France was the first country to sign a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact with India soon after the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted New Delhi an exemption to resume global nuclear trade in September 2008.

Indian officials said the agreement between Areva and NPCIL was likely to be commercial in nature. However, in addition to this accord, it might be necessary to have some government-to-government agreements for such arrangements, such as the confidentiality agreement and intellectual property rights which were also being looked at by the two sides.

Areva, which plans to set up two atomic power plants of 1,650 MW capacity each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, has made it clear that it is awaiting notification of implementing rules of the nuclear liability law to know the extent of the compensation it will have to pay in case of an atomic accident in the facilities it sets up.

Sarkozy begins a four-day working visit to India from IT city Bangalore on Saturday. He will be accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni and seven senior ministers, including the defence minister. The focus of the visit will be on taking strategic and economic ties between the two countries to new heights. 



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