India-US Business Council chief foresees progress of nations with nuclear liability bill

Washington, Sep 27 (ANI): The chief of India-US Business Council, Ron Somers, foresaw progress of the two nations with the signing of an agreement between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and America's Westinghouse.

"India was made an exception...to join the nuclear suppliers group, the atomic energy act was changed. In other words, so many things have been changed and here we are now signing a pre early works agreement between these two companies, Nuclear Power Corporation and Westinghouse. This is progress and we have to be patient with one another's democracy," said Somers.

India is making a last-minute push to close a nuclear deal in time for a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who has made atomic energy cooperation with Washington a hallmark of his tenure.

Under the proposed deal, India would contract Toshiba's U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse for preliminary works, including information sharing, a senior Indian official said. The aim is to build nuclear plants in the state of Gujarat.

The Indian opposition parties, who accused the government of trying to bypass due process and water down the liability law, have criticized the clearance.

Dr. Singh is due to meet Obama in Washington today.

Somers, however, anticipated that the two countries with similar backgrounds would resolve the issue of the bill.

"The way out is understand our genesis and understand that we both come from English common law, we both come from a common democratic background, we both believe in freedom and open and free press. We both believe in dialogue, in constructive dialogue to resolve our problems. We work through the issues and we will find a way to work through the issues so long as the will remains," added Somers.

Indian officials say the proposed deal between Westinghouse and NPCIL would be the first time money is committed to a commercial U.S. nuclear supplier since Singh staked his career on a civil nuclear pact with U.S. President George W. Bush five years ago.

Rules drawn up in 2011 limit the liability of suppliers and were seen as softening the law.

The preliminary deal with Westinghouse would not involve putting in place nuclear equipment, so would not immediately brush up against the liability issue, Indian officials said.

Westinghouse has safety approval from U.S. nuclear authorities for the AP 1000 reactor it wants to sell India. The preliminary deal must be cleared by two Indian committees before Singh leaves for the United States on Wednesday, two Indian officials said, asking not to be named.

India aims to lift its nuclear capacity to 63,000 megawatts in the next 20 years by adding nearly 30 reactors. It currently operates 20 reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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