Clinton pushes India to loosen rules for nuclear suppliers

While offering support on counterterrorism and renewing calls to bring the perpetrators of the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai to justice, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed hard for the relaxation of a tough liability law that is keeping U.S. nuclear firms from cashing in on the Indian market for power plants.

According to NDTV, India wants the U.S. to commit to sharing technology for enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) as part of the 2008 Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement, despite new guidelines issued by the Nuclear Suppliers Group which bar members from providing those technologies to countries, like India, which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  

Clinton reaffirmed the United States' commitment for full civil nuclear cooperation. But she also stressed that "we need to resolve the issues that still remain," the TV news channel said.

The main problem for US operators is a clause in India's new nuclear liability bill that makes the suppliers of reactors liable for 80 years for any accident at a plant. The clause puts U.S. companies at a disadvantage in comparison with state-owned firms from France or Russia, because the U.S. firms must seek private insurers to cover them for the massive potential damages in the event of an accident.

Ms Clinton said it is critical for India to ratify within a year an International Convention that addresses liability, and then ensure that domestic laws comply with these guidelines, NDTV said.

India does plan to ratify that convention, but officials say that Indian laws already comply with its provisions -- even if they are much tougher on suppliers than American companies would like.