February 4, 2016 / 7:04 PM / 2 years ago

India ratifies nuclear liability convention, hopes to win foreign investment

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India ratified an international convention on nuclear energy accident liability, the government said on Thursday, the final piece in its efforts to address the concerns of foreign nuclear suppliers and draw them into a market worth billions of dollars.

A policeman stands at a kiosk at the proposed site of the Jaitapur nuclear plant in Ratnagiri district, about 360 km (224 miles) south of Mumbai, April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files

Nuclear reactor makers such as General Electric have been reluctant to set up plants in India because of a 2010 liability law that makes equipment suppliers potentially accountable for accidents, not just the plant operators as is the global norm.

Since then, India which wants to ramp up the share of nuclear power from barely 3 percent to 25 percent by 2050 has been trying to assuage the fears of the nuclear suppliers.

Last year it launched an insurance pool with a liability cap of 15 billion Indian rupees ($225 million) to cover the suppliers’ risk of potential liability.

On Thursday, the Indian Foreign Ministry said it had submitted the document to ratify the Convention of Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which seeks to establish a uniform global legal regime for the compensation of victims in the event of a nuclear accident.

“This marks a conclusive step in the addressing of issues related to civil nuclear liability in India,” the Foreign Ministry said after the document was handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Energy-starved India plans to construct about 60 nuclear reactors and has been in talks with Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, GE as well as France’s Areva for setting them up at sites already selected around the country.

Russia is separately building six reactors in southern India and is in talks for another six. The total size of the Indian market is estimated at $150 billion dollars, making it equal to or just behind China’s.

India expects to seal an agreement with Westinghouse to build six reactors by the first half of this year, a government official said in December, after it ratified the international convention on compensation.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Alison Williams

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