UPDATE 1-India panel to suggest tougher nuclear liability bill

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By Nigam Prusty

NEW DELHI, Aug 17 (BestGrowthStock) – An Indian parliamentary panel
will on Wednesday recommend changes to a bill aimed at opening
up a $150 billion nuclear power market, including more
compensation for accidents and extending liability to private
suppliers.

The panel will recommend the liability cap be trebled to
$320 million, a member of the panel who asked not to be named,
said.

The recommendations, largely backed by opposition parties,
will mean higher costs for firms such as U.S.-based General
Electric (GE.N: ) and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of
Japan’s Toshiba Corp (6502.T: ), which would have to pay higher
insurance premiums.

“The operator will also sign a contract which will hold
suppliers liable if any accident is caused by defective
equipment,” the member said on condition of anonymity as the
report has to be presented to parliament first.

The original draft law had capped liability at about $110
million for the state-run reactor operator without placing any
compensation burden on private suppliers and contractors.

State compensation was capped at up to 300 million special
drawing rights. Opposition leaders, who had slammed the bill and
demanded changes, say the liability of a U.S. operator under
U.S. legislation is $12.5 billion.

The bill was introduced in parliament earlier in the year,
but opposition protests forced the government to refer it to the
panel, composed of members from several parties, for scrutiny.

“We have addressed the concerns of the (main opposition
Bharatiya Janata Party) BJP and more or less of the left
parties. This report has been more or less unanimously
approved,” said Congress’ T. Subbarami Reddy, who chaired the
panel.

Communist party members of the panel will submit a note of
dissent on the report, as they want no liability caps, but the
BJP has said it is willing to support the rewritten bill.

“The government has addressed our concerns on the bill and
we have decided to support it,” S.S. Ahluwalia, a BJP member on
the panel, said.

The bill has the personal backing of Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh whose 2008 deal with former U.S. president George Bush
ended India’s isolation in the global nuclear market.

The government is keen on ratifying the bill and smoothing
entry for global firms, including those from the United States,
before President Barack Obama’s planned November visit to India.

French and Russian firms, whose governments underwrite their
liability, are already working on setting up reactors in India.
(Writing by C.J. Kuncheria; Editing by Rina Chandran)

UPDATE 1-India panel to suggest tougher nuclear liability bill