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Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill & Neighboring Countries

Written By mediavigil on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 2:34 AM

There is need to pay rigorous attention to every aspect of the Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill. The word "civil" from the title of the Bill should be deleted. The deliberate act of inserting narrow definitions of liability, nuclear installations etc in the Bill appears to be a classic case of linguistic corruption.

The structural incompetence of AERB became manifest in the way it has been dealing with the matter of radioactive steel at least since 2007 and the recent case of Radioactive scrap in Delhi. Sadly, such radioactive contamination does not fall under the ambit of the proposed Bill.

There is a need for a provision to create a Atomic Energy Liability Commission as a constitutional body. This Commission should play the role of ascertaining nuclear damage and enormity of damage. Conflict of interest ridden members should be explicitly be barred from such a Commission. Such a Commission should be barred from playing any role in the promotion of nuclear commerce as is done by agencies. For instance, International Atomic Energy Agency, unfortunately is a promoter as well a regulator of nuclear commerce. The Commission should not have such incestuous existence.

In February, 2010 a piece on why the Bill needs to be examined dwelt on it threadbare.

The complete silence of states despite the fact that they do not have any role to play is indeed quite serious. The Bill does not reflect that any lesson has been learnt from the Three Mile Island (US) and Chernobyl (northern Ukrain in former USSR) accidents.

Omission of the concerns of the neighboring countries is quite glaring. It may be remembered that in the night of 25 to 26 April 1986, the explosion of the reactor in Chernobyl, the greatest industrial disaster in the history of humankind, released one hundred times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Besides the nuclear reactor's immediate surroundings - an area with a radius of about 30 km - other regions were contaminated, particularly in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

The contaminated territories lie in the north of Ukraine, the south and east of Belarus and in the western border area between Russia and Belarus. International estimates suggest that a total of between 125 000 and 146 000 km2 in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine are contaminated with caesium-137 at levels exceeding 1 curie (Ci) or 3.7 x 1010 becquerel (Bq) per square kilometre. This is an area greater than that of the neighboring countries of Latvia and Lithuania combined.

At the time of the accident, about 7 million people lived in the contaminated territories, including 3 million children. About 350 400 people were resettled or left these areas. However, about 5.5 million people, including more than a million children, continue to live in the contaminated zones.

Rehabilitation is of victims of nuclear damage merit special consideration that is absent in the Bill. Let us ponder on how will the proposed Bill respond if Chernobyl explosion that released one hundred times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to happen in India.

The big question is who was held accountable and liable for Chernobyl explosion and who would be held accountable or liable for similar disaster in India. Do we know the answer? How will the Indian parliament, courts and state assemblies react?

Don't we know how they reacted when the Bhopal gas disaster happened?. In such a backdrop, what is the role of those who know the issue and/or can know the issues involved here.
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