GE concerned over ‘lack’ of sustainable N-regulatory environ

NEW DELHI: India''s civil nuclear liability law doesn''t seem to stop haunting its atomic sector, with US major GE — which has to build six nuclear recators — voicing concern over the absence of a "sustainable regulatory environment" and seeking more "clarity" before entering into a partnership with the Indian side.

New Delhi, December 25

India's civil nuclear liability law doesn't seem to stop haunting its atomic sector, with US major GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy voicing concern over the absence of a "sustainable regulatory environment" and seeking more "clarity" before entering into a partnership with the Indian side.

While Indian officials do admit that there has been a "lukewarm" response by GE, they played down its concerns saying the company does not have a reference plant, a pre-requisite to go ahead with the project. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, one of the two US companies, is supposed to build six reactors in India.

When contacted, Banmali Agrawala, President and CEO for GE South Asia, said: "GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy believes the path forward requires a sustainable regulatory environment, which would include a nuclear liability law that channels liability to plant operators consistent with global best practices”.

"We continue to have a strong interest in providing our technology to India for the eventual construction of multiple ESBWRs (Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor)."

However, Agrawala asserted that though Indian Government has taken several steps, including establishing a Nuclear Insurance Pool, to address the concerns, the law required more "clarity".

"After all it is the law that prevails and not the clarification (referring to the FAQs)," he said.

The Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act (CNLD), 2010, was passed by Parliament two years after the historic civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the US and India.

Foreign suppliers have voiced concerns about the Right to Recourse under the Act, which they feel is "ambiguous".

However, Indian officials said the GE was raising concerns as it did not have a reference plant, without which it could not go ahead with the setting up reactors in the country.

"They (GE) should furnish a reference plant by the time negotiations are sealed," a senior government official said.

Department of Atomic Energy has also asked other foreign collaborators like the French company EDF and US' WestingHouse to provide them with information on their reference plant, he said.

Following the concerns raised by foreign suppliers, India also ratified Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, marking an important step in addressing matters related to civil nuclear liabilities earlier this year.

India has been, to a large extent, able to address the concerns of the French and the Russian companies but some others like GE still insist that a strong and sustainable regulatory mechanism was required to move forward.

As per the information on GE-Hitachi's website, in 2015, DTE Energy received the first-ever ESBWR-based combined construction and operating license from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

"Dominion Virginia Power has also selected the ESBWR as its technology of choice for a potential third reactor at the North Anna site," the website states. However, there is no operational reference plant. — PTI

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