New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel on Tuesday recommended amendments to the implementation rules of the nuclear liability law that deal with an atomic power plant operator's right to seek compensation from the supplier of equipment in case of an accident.

The Committee on Subordinate Legislation, chaired by CPI-M leader P Karunakaran, also pulled up the Department on Atomic Energy (DAE) for the 13-month delay in framing the rules of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act.

Contending that the CLND Rules dilute the stringent liability provisions of the law by imposing limitations in terms of duration and amount on the operator's right to recourse, the committee recommended suitable amendments.

"The Committee are of the firm view that Rule 24 has inserted limitations not mandated by the CLND Act ... The Committee, therefore, exhort DAE to amend rule 24 suitably to remove the limitations imposed on the liability as well as the duration of the liability period," the report said.

Rule 24(2) imposes restrictions in terms of time period during which the liability is applicable -- five years or the product liability period which ever is longer.

The DAE had contended that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) gave licenses for products for a limited period after which the same has to be renewed to ensure healthy condition of the plant.

The AERB also asks the operator to keep upgrading the plant safety systems in accordance with the new requirements that may emerge due to the operating experience anywhere in the world.

"... it is not desirable to hold the supplier responsible beyond certain initial period. Period of initial license becomes the natural choice for the period for the supplier's liability," the DAE had argued.

The DAE told the Committee that if the supplier took an insurance equal to their liability, the burden of the premium will increase the capital cost of the plant and the same will be passed on to the consumer in terms of higher tariff.

On the Committee's queries on extending the initial licence period, the DAE had argued that in such a case the responsibility of maintenance of the equipment would have to be given to the foreign supplier.

"The moment we want to go beyond the product liability period, supplier will have to be given responsibility for maintenance also. So, we will end up paying more money for those cases where we ourselves have the competence," the DAE said.

It also contended that the operator cannot hold the original supplier responsible after it has carried out changes to the nuclear power plant as directed by the AERB.

However, these arguments did not appear to have satisfied the Committee which suggested amendments to the rules.

It also said there was no clarity in the CLND Act and the Rules on whether the operator can make successive claims from the supplier in case of the final disposal of a court case filed by an applicant against the compensation he has received under the law.

"The Committee, therefore, urge that the CLND Act or Rules thereunder should be suitably amended to provide necessary clarity on this aspect and the Committee be informed of the action taken in this regard," the report said.

The Committee also said it was "distressed" to note the 13-month delay in framing of rules under the CNLD Act.

"The Committee do not expect such lackadaisical approach in framing of rules by the DAE," the report said.


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