UPDATE 1-India-U.S. nuke deal could help clear project logjam - Westinghouse CEO

Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:48am EST
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(Writes through with interview, context)

By Douglas Busvine

NEW DELHI Jan 26 (Reuters) - A civil nuclear pact struck at summit talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama could help clear a logjam of stalled projects, the head of U.S. nuclear power plant maker Westinghouse told Reuters on Monday.

Daniel Roderick, president and CEO of Toshiba-backed Westinghouse Electric Co, said a commitment by India to "channel" immediate costs arising from any nuclear accident to the plant operator marked an important step forward.

But he said he was looking for more detail on a nuclear liability insurance pool that India has proposed that would involve a state insurer and be backed by the government.

"The term breakthrough is appropriate," Roderick said in an interview in New Delhi. "We have been in such a logjam for such a long time that making forward progress with a large stride instead of not even a baby step is pretty significant for us."

At their first summit in September in Washington, Obama and Modi set up a contact group to address ambiguities in a 2010 liability law passed by India that put ultimate responsibility for any accident on nuclear equipment suppliers, and not on plant operators.

The law sought to prevent a repeat of the battles for compensation over the Bhopal gas disaster three decades ago, but had the effect of stalling billions of dollars in projects under a U.S.-India nuclear alliance struck in 2006.

The Indian side said it was not able to change the law, but still made a convincing case that costs - such as rehousing people away from a nuclear accident site - should be borne by a plant operator and not its suppliers, said Roderick.   Continued...