India’s Nuclear Liability Law

Nuclear energy has been debated ever since it came into use for its advantages and challenges to human life. Most of the world’s nuclear energy is reserved in a few countries who have and continue to try restricting others from developing their nuclear power and arsenal. This article covers the pros and cons of nuclear energy, the various conventions, and treaties created for regulating, reducing nuclear arsenal, and finally a study on India’s Nuclear Energy venture the creation of, controversy attached to the Civil Nuclear Liability Act of 2010.


Capping Limit: The Maximum limit set by law or an agreement.

Special Drawing Rights: An international reserve asset created by the International Monetary Fund


Nuclear energy is a great source of energy known for its cost-effectiveness and low carbon making. It is an ideal replacement for other fuels that pollute the environment more. It is no wonder that the entire world wants to increase its nuclear power reserves. India itself currently has twenty-two operating nuclear reactors and seven under construction.

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

·         Nuclear radiation

Accidents in nuclear plants can lead to largescale damage and loss of human lives as witnessed in the Chernobyl disaster where 15,000-30,000 people lost their lives. Even after the accident, large amounts of radioactive waste caused damage to the surroundings for a long timespan as seen in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings as well as the Chernobyl disaster, although the former is comparatively more habitable.

·         Cost

Building a nuclear plant, its maintenance and operation demand an enormous sum and strict regulations to ensure safety make act as a deterrent for investors.

·         Nuclear Weapons

Since the onset of the Cold War, nations started increasing their nuclear arsenal, especially the US and Russia. The development of nuclear weapons also creates hazardous waste. The testing of nuclear weapons causes cancers due to the release of the radionuclide.

Nuclear Treaties and Conventions

Treaties and conventions were created to regulate, control, and reduce nuclear activity other than for civil purposes and create a safer environment for the same.

  • Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The NPT was created to prevent countries from increasing their nuclear arsenal and preventing the spread of nuclear weapon knowledge. It was to promote the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. The treaty entered into force on 11 May 1995 and was signed by 191 states and five nuclear-weapon states namely the US, UK, Russia, China, Japan, and France. To ensure compliance it created a safeguard system under the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) that verifies whether all the members are abiding by the treaty’s mandates.

  • Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty(CTBT)

The CTBT was created to prevent nuclear weapon testing anywhere in the world. it was signed by 184 countries in September 1996. It establishes a global monitoring network to verify compliance called the International Monitoring System (IMS).

  • Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS)

The CNS was created to establish a level of safety while operating civil nuclear plants. It was adopted on 17 June 1994, Vienna, Austria, and came into force on 24 October 1996.

  • Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

The CPPNM was created to ensure protection towards the nuclear material and it is the only convention of its kind. It was signed on 3 March 1980 at Vienna and New York.

Genesis: India’s Relation with Nuclear Energy

First Nuclear power center

India’s first nuclear power center “Tarapur Atomic Station” is located at Boiser in the Thane District of Maharashtra. Its commercial operation began on 28 October 1969.

India’s first nuclear test

India’s first nuclear test “Smiling Buddha” was conducted in 1974 at Pokhran, Rajasthan. It was a peaceful test.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine

India adopted its nuclear doctrine “no first use” after its second round of nuclear tests (Pokhran II) in 1998. According to this India would not strike an attack first and only use its nuclear arsenal as a defence and retaliate if attacked by another country.

India’s first Nuclear Reactor

Apsara is India’s oldest reactor designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Center(BARC) and was built by support from the UK,

Negotiation for the future

After its nuclear test in 1974, India was criticised internationally and since it did not sign the NPT and CTBT, it did not have access to foreign knowledge and equipment for developing its nuclear power and had to rely on domestic sources. However, this changed after the “India-Us Civil Nuclear Deal 2008

This deal provided that:

  1. India would be separate its nuclear facilities into civil and military purposes and place the civil nuclear facilities under the IAEA safeguards.
  2. India will not share technological knowledge or encourage other states that do not have them.
  3. The US will provide full cooperation for the civil nuclear needs of India as well as allowing India to trade with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which was restricted to only those who signed the NPT.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010

Legal liability refers to accountability or responsibility for one’s actions towards another.

Under criminal law, it is of two types:

Strict Liability

A liability becomes a strict liability when someone has something dangerous on his land and is an unnatural use of such land, it must escape the land. Strict liability however is exempted when the damage occurs due to the claimant’s fault, an act of God, an act done under the authority of a statute, an act done by a third party.

Absolute Liability

Absolute liability is the same as Strict liability but is absolute as it does not allow any exceptions.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLND) 2010 was created to provide compensation to victims of a nuclear accident. It follows the no-fault or strict liability principle in administering justice. The liability is bestowed on the operator. The Act appoints a Claims Commissioner and establishes a Nuclear Damage Claims Commission.

The act has placed Strict Liability on the Operator under Section 4 and its exceptions under Section 5 of the CLND. Under clause 6(1) the act places a maximum amount of liability of an accident at 300 million Special drawing rights. Under clause 6(2), the act limits the maximum amount of liability of an operator to 1500 crores. Under Section 7 it shifts liability to the Central Government when the amount exceeds the capping limit of the operator and the Central Government may even take the full liability of the nuclear installation if it feels its in the best interest of the public. The Act limits the claimant’s right to claim compensation to a time limit of 10 years in case of damaged property and 20 years in case of personal injury under Section 18.

Criticisms of the Act

This Act has been very controversial. Firstly, the limitation of the operator’s liability to 1500 crores and the Central government’s assumption of liability when the liability exceeds the maximum amount of an operator as well as the full liability for a nuclear installation shows the intention to attract more investors but this is at the cost of taxpayers. Also, a capping limit for nuclear damage cannot be decided. No one can assume the amount of damage that will occur during any nuclear accident and when it exceeds such amount, the victims are not properly compensated, and 1500 crores are relatively low compared to other countries and some countries have not placed a capping limit on the liability. As mentioned earlier, the effects of nuclear radiation last exceptionally long, hence the time limitation of a claimant’s right to seek compensation is not sufficient.


The CLND Act of 2010 is useful for regulation and provision of compensation to victims but it needs to work on a few sections and aim to balance the security of the operators, attracting potential investors as well as the safety and compensation of victims.


  • Why has the India-US civil nuclear deal been criticised?

The efforts put into Non-Proliferation by other countries as a part of the NPT seem invalidated when this deal was made. It makes India over-dependent on the US due to meagre Uranium sources in India. It does not motivate India to develop its own indigenous technology.

  • How is nuclear energy produced?

Nuclear energy is produced by nuclear fission or fusion. Nuclear fission occurs when a neutron collides into a larger atom, causing it to separate into smaller atoms. Nuclear fusion occurs when two atoms collide to form a heavier atom. During both these processes, huge amounts of energy get released and are used for various purposes.

  • Is the limited liability adequate or does it give an undue advantage to the operator?

No, the limited liability as asserted before is inadequate, the damage of a nuclear accident cannot be measured before it takes place, and hence having a limit is unfair. Limited liability acts as a shield to the operators and especially the provision that transfers the liability beyond the limit to the central government.

  • Why did India not sign the NPT?

India did not sign the NPT because it viewed it as a monopoly of nuclear power by the five nuclear-weapon states and restricted the other members from developing hence discriminatory. It would agree to sign it only if the five nuclear-weapon states also gave up their arsenal.


Nuclear energy production

Advantages of nuclear energy

Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

Treaties and conventions

India’s Nuclear energy venture

Civil liability for nuclear damage act 2010

Civil Liability for nuclear damage bare act

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