Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Civil Liability for Nuclear Claims Bill, 2010: is life cheap in India?

Expand Messages
  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asians Against Nukes - Year 12 21 June 2010 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1344 o o o The Hindu, June 21, 2010 Civil Liability for Nuclear
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 20, 2010
      South Asians Against Nukes - Year 12
      21 June 2010

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SAAN_/message/1344

      o o o

      The Hindu, June 21, 2010

      Civil Liability for Nuclear Claims Bill, 2010: is life cheap in India?

      by Arjun Makhijani

      In this file photo an activist lights a candle in New Delhi during a
      demonstration demanding justice for Bhopal gas tragedy victims. India
      would be ignoring its own tragic history of the Bhopal disaster, still
      unfolding with the health and lives of tens of thousands of people
      ruined.
      PTIIn this file photo an activist lights a candle in New Delhi during
      a demonstration demanding justice for Bhopal gas tragedy victims.
      India would be ignoring its own tragic history of the Bhopal disaster,
      still unfolding with the health and lives of tens of thousands of
      people ruined.

      The bill should be amended to include an explicit provision that says
      there would be no operator liability cap, and that an initial payment
      of $20 billion (about Rs. 92,000 crores) would have to be put in
      escrow in a worst case accident.

      Before the Indian Parliament votes on limiting the liability of
      nuclear operators due to accidents, it should carefully consider the
      much higher limits that the United States has set for itself — about
      $11 billion per incident industry maximum (under the Price-Anderson
      Act). The liability of the operator of the plant would be just Rs. 500
      crores, about $110 million, which is just one per cent of the U.S.
      limit, and about $450 million per accident. The proposed law allows an
      adjustment of this upwards or downwards to a possible lower limit of
      just Rs. 300 crores, or about $65 million. But more than that,
      Parliament should consider that the actual damages could be far
      greater than the U.S. liability limit.

      A 1997 study by the U.S. government's own Brookhaven National
      Laboratory, on Long Island, New York, found that the severe spent fuel
      pool accidents could result in damages from somewhat under $1 billion
      of up to $566 billion, depending on a how full and hot the pool is at
      the time of the accident and the intensity of the postulated fire. The
      high-end figure would amount to over $700 billion in 2009 dollars.
      Vast amounts of land — up to about 7,000 square kilometres in the
      worst case — would have to be condemned. Large numbers of people would
      have to be evacuated. Further, the maximum estimated monetary damages
      do not take into account some critical elements. For instance, the
      Brookhaven amount does not include excess cancer deaths, estimated to
      range from 1,500 to more than 100,000. Worst case nuclear reactor
      accident cancers and condemned area were estimated to be generally
      comparable to the upper end of the spent fuel accident estimates. (
      R.J. Travis, R.E. Davis, E.J. Grove, M.A. Azarm, A Safety and
      Regulatory Assessment of Generic BWR and PWR Permanently Shutdown
      Nuclear Power Plants, Brookhaven National Laboratory, 1997
      (NUREG/CR-6451). See Tables 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3.)

      Both the U.S. and Indian governments seem to be secure in the idea
      that such a severe nuclear power plant disaster is so unlikely that it
      can be disregarded. For instance, that is the response of the United
      States Nuclear Regulatory Commission in response to the Brookhaven
      study. Like the proposed Indian bill, the United States government is
      supposed to cover the excess damages above the corporate limit. Yet,
      neither country has any practical financial provision to cover damages
      in anything like the amount of estimated damages.

      The ongoing disaster of the petroleum volcano caused by blowout of the
      BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico should provide a sobering object
      lesson. Thinking that does not consider high-consequence but
      low-probability events borders on folly. BP also considered an
      uncontrolled blowout to be very low probability. As it turns out, BP,
      as one of the world's largest corporations, can provide the tens of
      billions of dollars of damages. But no nuclear company in the United
      States has the financial muscle to compensate a significant fraction
      of the maximum officially estimated damages.

      India would be ignoring its own tragic history of the 1984 Bhopal
      disaster, still unfolding with the health and lives of tens of
      thousands of people ruined, as well the ghastly BP drama that has
      reduced the United States to a heap of frustration in the face of a
      powerful oil industry. The Price-Anderson Act in the United States
      limiting liability to $11 billion is bad enough. But the Civil
      Liability Nuclear Claims Bill of 2010 is much worse for two reasons.
      First, $110 million cap for the operator, or even higher $450 million
      total cap, would not cover even one-tenth of one paisa per rupee of
      damage in a worst case accident. Second, by setting a liability limit
      that is so far below even the unsatisfactory U.S. level, the Indian
      government would be proclaiming its agreement with the lamentable
      long-held imperialist view that “life is cheap in India.”

      The bill should be amended to include an explicit provision that says
      there would be no operator liability cap, and that an initial payment
      of $20 billion (about Rs. 92,000 crores) would have to be put in
      escrow in a worst case accident. That is approximately the arrangement
      that BP has agreed to (with no cap) in the United States in the case
      of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Worst case nuclear accident
      damages are likely to be more severe and long-lasting. If the Civil
      Liability Nuclear Claims Bill of 2010 it is not amended as above, it
      should be withdrawn; if it is not withdrawn, it should be soundly
      defeated.

      (Arjun Makhijani is President, Institute for Energy and Environmental
      Research, Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S. Email: arjun@...)

      ____________

      SOUTH ASIANS AGAINST NUKES (SAAN):
      An informal information platform for activists and scholars concerned
      about the dangers of Nuclearisation in South Asia
      http://s-asians-against-nukes.org/

      SAAN Mailing List:
      To subscribe send a blank message to: saan_-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
      ________________________________
      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do
      not necessarily reflect the views of SAAN compilers.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.