India’s research reactors not under nuclear insurance pool

Chennai, June 18 (IANS) India’s research reactors will not be covered under the newly set-up nuclear insurance pool as they are owned by the union government, a top official of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has said.

“The Rs.1,500 crore ($234 million) India Nuclear Insurance Pool is mainly for power plants operated by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). The reactors operated by research institutions do not come under the insurance pool,” BARC director Sekhar Basu told IANS.

Basu is also a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and a director in NPCIL.

“The research reactors are very small. Further the research institutions are owned by the central government. And governments do not generally take out an insurance policy on its properties,” Basu added.

BARC’s two operational test reactors are the 100 MW and a very low-power Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR).

Basu said what is applicable to BARC applies equally to the research reactors operated by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam, around 80 km from here.

The IGCAR operates two small research reactors – fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) and Kamini.

According to Basu, the upcoming 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) expected to go on stream this year would come under the insurance cover once it starts the nuclear fission process.

The government-owned Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI) is setting up the country’s first indigenously designed 500 MW PFBR at Kalpakkam.

A breeder reactor is one that breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes. The PFBR will be fuelled by a blend of plutonium and uranium oxide, called MOX fuel.

The central government recently announced the setting up of the Rs.1,500-crore India Nuclear Insurance Pool to be managed by national reinsurer GIC Re.

The GIC Re, four government-owned general insurers and also some private general insurers have provided the capacity to insure the risks to the tune of around Rs.1,000 crore and the balance Rs.500 crore capacity has been obtained from the British Nuclear Insurance Pool.

The losses or profits in the pool would be shared by the insurers in the ratio of their agreed risk capacity.

Foreign nuclear plant suppliers were reluctant to sell their plants to India citing the provisions of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act (CLND) 2010 that provides the right of recourse to NPCIL against the vendors under certain circumstances for compensation in case of an accident.

The insurance pool was formed as a risk transfer mode for the suppliers and also NPCIL.

All the 21 operating nuclear power plants in India owned and operated by NPCIL are expected to come under public liability insurance cover from next month onwards, a senior official of New India Assurance Company Ltd told IANS, preferring anonymity.

The insurance cover would also extend to the 1,000 MW nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu built with Russian equipment.

“We are planning to issue a single policy covering all the 21 nuclear power units of NPCIL including the one in Kudankulam. The premium will be paid by NPCIL and the policy will be issued in its name,” he said.

According to him, the final premium has not been arrived at but it will be between Rs.100 crore and Rs.150 crore.

He said the proposed policy would cover the liability towards public as a consequence of any nuclear accident in the plants covered under the policy and also the right of recourse of NPCIL against the equipment suppliers.

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