Report: Gathering with Mr. Kumar Sundaram to learn about the status quo of the nuclear power industry in India Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164

Inviting Mr. Kumar Sundaram from India, a gathering was held in Tokyo on December 11, 2014 to learn the latest news on the nuclear power industry in India. The meeting was jointly organized by the Support Action Center for Kotopanjang Dam Victims, No Nukes Asia Forum Japan, and Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. Mr. Sundaram was visiting Japan to appeal for support to nullify the Japan–India Nuclear Agreement.

Mr. Sundaram started his talk with a request to the participants: “India is the world’s biggest nuclear power market. I would like to use this opportunity to discuss with participants what problems India has, in what ways the Indian and Japanese nuclear mafia are trying to promote nuclear power, and what kinds of resistance are available to citizens.”

Mr. Kumar Sundaram

India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act

India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, which was passed by the Indian parliament in 2010 and took effect in 2011, is a landmark piece of legislation in that it specifies the liability of reactor makers. Indian lawmakers established this Act, having been moved by citizens’ worries about nuclear power, anger against multinational corporations, and strong demands for compensation for damage caused by industrial pollution. The international nuclear power industry is hatching schemes to water down the Act, which is a hindrance to the industry. The Indian government is also actively committed to a nullification of the Act.

The origin of the Indian Nuclear Liability Act is the 1984 toxic-gas leakage accident, in which a large amount of toxic gas leaked from a chemical plant located in Bhopal, in the mid-western region of India. The leakage allegedly started late at night, and before dawn thousands to tens of thousands of people had died, and hundreds of thousands of people affected. The accident was caused by an Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide, a U.S. company. The Indian Supreme Court summoned the top management of the company as criminals, but the U.S. government rejected this demand, and thus the top management was not questioned for responsibility as individuals. The company paid a great amount of compensation for the damage, but the money did not reach individual sufferers.

The Indian population shared a strong view that any accidents caused by multinational businesses should not be left uninvestigated, and consequently, in 2010, the Nuclear Liability Act was established with the inclusion of the clause specifying the liabilities of plant makers. As an additional note, however, this Act has problems such as the upper limit of compensation being extremely low, and that compensation can only be claimed within 20 years after an accident, failing to encompass late-onset health problems.

The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage may make the Indian Nuclear Liability Act toothless

The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) states that when a nuclear accident has occurred, the country where the accident originated should pay compensation of up to three hundred million Special Drawing Rights (SDR) (USD422 million, as of Jan 27, 2015), and that any compensation above that limit is to be paid jointly by all member countries. The Indian government and nuclear lobby emphasize that CSC is beneficial because the member countries of the international network jointly shoulder the compensation. Nevertheless, CSC is problematic because it rules out the liability by nuclear plant makers and because there are restrictions on the damage categories that can be compensated.

In November 2014, the Japanese parliament passed the CSC bill and both houses approved of Japan’s participation in the convention. For CSC to take effect, five member countries and a total thermal output from nuclear power stations of 400 gigawatts were required. As the Japanese government signed the convention on January 15 and became the fifth member, CSC is scheduled to take effect on April 15, 2015, 90 days later after the establishment requirements have been fulfilled. CSC concentrates nuclear accident liabilities on plant operators, and since the convention includes a clause that member countries should change their domestic laws, the Indian Nuclear Liability Act is likely to be watered down when India joins CSC.

Significance of nuclear power promotion in India

The nuclear power operators and nuclear lobby in India have no intention of producing reactors by themselves. India has already signed a contract for the import of reactors into the country. Therefore, for India, nuclear power promotion means nuclear reactor imports.

After its first nuclear test in 1974, India was kicked out of the international nuclear lobby. Today, however, India is the most important nuclear power market in the world: India has been given an exceptional acceptance by the world to operate nuclear power despite not having signed the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Indian government welcomes this attitude of the international community and intends to continue its expansion of nuclear power generation. For India, promoting nuclear power generation also means developing nuclear weapons.

The Indian government, which wants to promote nuclear development, and the international nuclear lobby, which wants to sell reactors to India, are working together to nullify the Indian Nuclear Liability Act, and the issue has been consistently raised in nuclear negotiations with other countries. The Indian government has also been trying to pull the teeth from the Indian Nuclear Liability Act, but as it was a minority ruling party, it was not able to amend the law at liberty due to objection from opposition parties.Nevertheless, the conventional ruling party lost the Indian lower house general election in May 2014, handing the right-wing Indian People’s Party (BJP) a sole majority in parliament. The BJP intends to make India a strong, militaristic country. The BJP was also the ruling party when India conducted its nuclear test in 1974. If CSC takes effect internationally, the ruling BJP may voluntarily amend the Indian Nuclear Liability Act and proceed to participate in the international nuclear power lobby.

Taking a strong stand against the Japan–India Nuclear Agreement

The Japan–India Nuclear Agreement is under negotiation between the two countries and has not yet been signed. If the two countries sign this agreement, Japan, which is a victim of A-bomb attacks, will be obliged to recognize India, which has not signed the NPT, as the sixth nuclear weapons power. Signing the agreement will have an extremely strong impact on the international community.

The biggest problems concerning the possible Japan–India Nuclear Agreement are that it would destroy the world’s NPT-based non-proliferation system, and that the international nuclear power industry, whose power waned after the Fukushima accident, might regain strength. I am certain that we must cooperate with each other to oppose this agreement.

(Nobuko Tanimura, CNIC)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You may also like...