South Asia

Indian parliament approves civil nuclear bill

Tarapur Atomic Power Station in India's Maharashtra state
Image caption Nuclear power meets only 3% of India's current energy needs

India's upper house has approved a bill to open the country's nuclear power market to private investment.

The new law allows foreign firms to supply reactors for energy-hungry India's enormous atomic power market, worth an estimated $150bn (£97bn).

The lower house passed the bill last week after compensation payable in the event of an accident was tripled.

India's president must now sign the bill into law. Her assent is a formality.


The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill is part of a landmark deal with the US in 2008 which granted India access to foreign nuclear technology.

For more than three decades the country had been barred from trade in civilian atomic technology because of its weapons programme and refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The bill cleared India's lower house last week after MPs agreed to set the compensation cap in the event of a nuclear accident at $320m.

Left-wing parties wanted the compensation level to be much higher.

Some private firms, especially in the US, have been reluctant to build nuclear power plants in India without a law that would limit their liability in the event of an accident.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says that nuclear power is the most cost-effective way for India to meet its energy needs.

Nuclear energy contributes only 3% to the country's current power supply, but the new law is expected to lead to a substantial increase in that figure in the coming decades.

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