France wants India to stick to global n-liability standards (Lead)

December 2nd, 2010 - 9:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Ahead of French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit here, India and France have accelerated negotiations to wrap up a framework agreement for civil nuclear cooperation even as Paris has asked New Delhi’s civil atomic liability rules to be brought in conformity with global standards.

France is understood to have conveyed that India must ensure the legal security of French suppliers of nuclear equipment and has pressed New Delhi to bring its civil liability law in conformity with international standards.

Sarkozy is expected to get across this message when he holds wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday, sources said.

Discussions on a framework civil nuclear cooperation agreement are going on, sources said.

If discussions are wrapped up, the framework agreement between French nuclear giant Areva and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for building two European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) could be signed during Sarkozy’s visit, sources said.

The framework agreement is expected to lay down broad rules for Areva building two nuclear reactors initially, which will eventually increase to six in number.

France became the first country to sign a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation accord with India Sep 30, 2008, after the Nuclear Suppliers Group granted New Delhi a one-time exemption from the existing rules of nuclear commerce.

“The agreement between Areva and NPCIL is likely to be a commercial kind of agreement,” said T.P. Seetharam, joint secretary (Europe-West) in the external affairs ministry, Wednesday.

“But in addition, for all this to be facilitated, it may be necessary to have some government-to-government agreements for such arrangements, such as the confidentiality agreement and intellectual property rights, etc., which are also being looked at,” said Seetharam.

Areva, which plans to set up two atomic power plants of 1,650 MW capacity each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, has made it clear that it is awaiting notification of implementing rules of the nuclear liability law to know the extent of the compensation they will have to pay in case of an atomic accident in facilities set up by it.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Law passed by parliament recently caps the liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs.1,500 crore (approx. $360 million).

Last month, India signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), a long-standing demand of American nuclear companies, days before US President Barack Obama arrived in New Delhi. But American nuclear suppliers want still more clarity on their liability obligations.

The CSC, after it enters into force, would establish a uniform global legal regime for compensation to victims in the event of a nuclear accident.

Accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni and seven senior ministers, Sarkozy begins a four-day working visit to India from IT city Bangalore Saturday. The focus of the visit will be on taking strategic and economic ties between the two countries to new heights.

Besides reviewing bilateral ties, Manmohan Singh and Sarkozy are expected to discuss a host of global issues like reform of the international financial institutions, the G20 forum of major and emerging economies, climate change and non-proliferation.

In Bangalore, Sarkozy will visit the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where he would see the Indo-French project Megha-Tropiques satellite being jointly developed by ISRO and CNES, the French counterpart of ISRO.

On Sunday, France’s first couple goes on a private visit to Agra and Fatehpur Sikri before flying to Delhi where Manmohan Singh will host a private dinner for the Sarkozys in the evening.

Valerie Pecresse, the French minister for higher education and research, will inaugurate a new French consulate general in Bangalore Saturday and re-open Frannce’s consulate in Kolkata Sunday.

India and France, which did bilateral trade of 5.36 billion euros last year, have set a target of scaling it to 12 billion euros by 2012.

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