Hindu26sep13 npcil, Westinghouse to sign ‘early’ n-agreement

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NPCIL, Westinghouse to sign ‘early’ N-agreement

Concerns on high price remain
Following clearance from the Atomic Energy Commission and the Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday night, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is all set to sign a ‘pre-early works agreement’ for six 1,000 MWe reactors with Westinghouse, official Indian sources said here on Wednesday.
On Washington’s insistence, the signing has been rushed to demonstrate the commitment of the Manmohan Singh government to fulfilling its end of the nuclear bargain struck with the U.S. in 2008 — that in exchange for American efforts to lift the global embargo on nuclear sales to India, the country would buy at least 10,000 MWe worth of U.S. reactors.
The agreement, to be signed before Prime Minister Singh’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, marks the first concrete step towards a full-fledged commercial deal and will involve NPCIL paying approximately Rs. 100 crore to the American company in exchange for the proprietary information needed to plan the proposed nuclear park in Mithi Virdi, Gujarat, and secure clearances from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
Though a lot of hard negotiations are still required to move to the next stage, Indian atomic energy officials are concerned at the “upper limit calculation” for the price of power in the proposed agreement. According to a report in The Indian Express , this stands at approximately Rs. 12 per kilowatt/hour, or more than double the price at which the Russian reactors at Kudankulam will produce electricity.
While there is some scope for NPCIL to bring the price down during commercial negotiations, Indian officials say the liability issue will be cited by Westinghouse as the reason for keeping the price high.

President not obliged to sign ‘unconstitutional’ ordinance: BJP

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Protesting the government decision to promulgate an ordinance to negate the Supreme Court verdict that held ultra vires Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, some political parties including the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party have urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign it.
The ordinance will protect convicted lawmakers from immediate disqualification provided their appeal is admitted by a higher court within 90 days and both conviction and sentence are stayed.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “We are opposed to it [ordinance]. We request the President not to sign it. President is not obliged to sign an Ordinance that is unconstitutional.”
To this, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari counter-tweeted, stating the constitutionality or otherwise of legal enactments was tested in constitutional courts and not in the BJP’s moat.
“Unsolicited advice is neither appreciated nor taken seriously. These are the first principles of the legal profession. Advice of Leader of Opposition amusing, surprising,” he said.
The CPI(M) Polit Bureau, in a statement, said the matter of disqualification of elected members who were convicted “should have been discussed in Parliament and appropriate steps taken.”
The CPI Central Secretariat said the government should not be in a hurry to issue an ordinance to protect convicted legislators.
Jagdeep S. Chhokar, former dean of the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), urged Mr. Mukherjee to consider the draft ordinance with extra care before signing it as “one pillar of the state was attempting to undo the expressed will of the other two pillars.” The Executive riding roughshod over the expressed will of the Judiciary and the Legislature was against all norms of the system of checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution, he said.
Unsolicited advice is neither appreciated nor taken seriously: Tewari
The matter of disqualification should have been discussed in Parliament: CPI(M)

Uncertainty in Maharashtra after court order on Aadhaar

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With 7.4 crore enrolments, State has covered 65 per cent of its population

The Supreme Court’s order that no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card has put the future of the Unique Identification programme in question.

The Hindu The Supreme Court’s order that no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card has put the future of the Unique Identification programme in question.
For a State that prides itself on its Aadhaar enrolments, Maharashtra’s plans to make the number mandatory for LPG subsidies by March 2014, could be derailed by the Supreme Court’s interim order on Monday.
The court said UID compliance could not be a pre-requisite for accessing welfare schemes. Maharashtra ranks second behind Andhra Pradesh in UID enrolments. With 7.4 crore enrolments so far, the State has covered 65 per cent of its population. It has already made Aadhaar compliance mandatory for LPG subsidies in Wardha district and planned to extend this rule throughout the State in the next few months.
“It is totally premature for me to comment. We have not seen the Supreme Court order. We will have to see how the UID authority interprets it,” said State IT Secretary Rajesh Agarwal.
Sources said the government could consider a scenario where those with Aadhaar numbers got LPG subsidy remitted to their bank accounts and others getting it up-front.
The court order that the Aadhaar number should be given only to Indian nationals could hit enrolments. Till now UID was seen as proof of residence, not nationality. “Very few people have proof of nationality like a passport,” points out Mr. Agarwal. Many are wondering whether the existing Aadhaar numbers will become invalid since they were allocated without considering proof of nationality. The State was not only planning to make the Aadhaar number mandatory for LPG subsidies but was also considering extending it to receipt of government salaries.
Critics of the scheme have questioned its status from the very inception. “Ä parliamentary standing committee rejected a Bill which proposed making the Unique Identification Authority of India a statutory authority. So how could this scheme be made mandatory by any State?” asks R. Ramakumar, assistant professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Opponents of the scheme have also pointed out that making it compulsory will exclude a large number of poor people from welfare schemes. “First, the enrolment is not hundred per cent. Secondly many poor people do not have bank accounts to receive subsidies. And third, the subsidy will not be received up-front. An LPG subsidy, for instance, will reach the bank account much later. How many poor people will be able to pay Rs. 900-1000 for a cylinder and wait for the subsidy to reach their account?” asks Kiran Moghe from the All-India Democratic Women’s Association.
Making scheme compulsory will deny many poor people welfare benefits, say Aadhaar opponents
“How can poor people pay Rs. 900-1,000 first for LPG and wait for subsidy?”

Aadhaar: SC order brings relief for some

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Apex court makes it clear that it’s not mandatory to link Aadhaarcard to government schemes
Those who are being denied subsidy for LPG cylinders for want of an Aadhaar card linkage can now heave a sigh of relief.
On Monday, a bench of the Supreme Court ordered that no citizen should be denied government benefits for not having the Aadhaar card. This would mean that the Aadhaar cannot be linked to government schemes.
The response to the apex court order from officials has been guarded.
Officials in the city have acknowledged that the order could be a setback to their ongoing efforts to link the biometric card to LPG subsidy. They, however, maintained that it is too early to draw inferences from the order and they would rather ‘wait and watch’ for further clarity on the issue.
“We need more clarity on the Supreme Court order. We can’t react or draw any conclusions until higher authorities get the order papers and study them properly. We are also waiting for suggestions from higher authorities,” says LPG Gas co-ordinator, Hyderabad, Madhukar Ingole.
Attempts to link Aadhaar with LPG subsidy has been a bone of contention due to inordinate delays in the issue of the biometric cards and the slow pace in linking bank accounts for electronic transfer of the subsidy. There have been many complaints from families, who have not been receiving subsidies to their bank accounts due to delay in effecting the linkage.
So far, the LPG cylinder subsidy amount that has been transferred directly to the bank accounts of beneficiaries is between Rs. 122 and Rs. 130 crore. Only 42 per cent of LPG gas users in Hyderabad and 47 per cent in Ranga Reddy district have so far successfully managed to link their bank accounts to Aadhaar Card.

Russia pooh-poohs MMRCA negotiations

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Victor M. Komardin, deputy chief of Russian defence export agency Rosoboronexport, has insinuated that the long-pending medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal for procurement of 126 fighters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) is unlikely to be inked before the general elections next year.
Addressing the media at the ongoing Namexpo (Naval and Maritime Expo) here on Tuesday, Mr. Komardin derisively commented that while contract negotiations between buyer (Air Force, in this case) and the lowest bidder (French company Dassault, which makes Rafale fighter aircraft) would normally witness the buyer asking for further lowering of price, the MMRCA negotiations saw the price almost double.
“What does this mean?” he asked, and said “not even a finger will move [to sign the deal] till the general elections are over.”
Mr. Komardin also said that the fifth generation fighter aircraft being jointly developed by India and Russia would be ready in the next five years, obviating the need for a less-capable fourth-generation aircraft India was poised to buy through the MMRCA deal.
He said Russia always believed in the politics of friendship and rated relationships over economics.
To a question, he said defence requirements of India had grown over the years, forcing it to look for other suppliers and partners. “Meanwhile, we are limited by our huge internal orders too,” he said, blaming the media for portraying Russia in poor light.
There was a rise in Russia’s export to India, but the rate of growth was not as much as it had been 15 years ago.
Price tag not agreeable
On the absence of an air defence system (long range surface-to-air missile or LR-SAM) on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, he said while the carrier was being refurbished, the price of a few systems was not agreeable to the Indian side, which wanted ‘some systems reduced’.
“They kept it for a later date. Once the carrier is handed over to India, it is their decision to integrate any systems on the platform,” he said acidly.
To a question on India’s plan to retrofit the vessel with Barak 8 being jointly developed by India and Israel, he said Russia being the makers of the vessel would be in the loop while the retrofitting would be done. Mr. Komardin reeled out figures like 3,000 defence contractors visiting India last year alone to fulfil the over 50 contracts the country currently had in India.
On the status of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft, developed by the Russian United Aircraft Corporation-Transport Aircraft and Indian Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under a Joint Venture, he said the project would take time to fructify as bureaucracy made processes cumbersome and difficult.

One-third of the sewage treatment capacity goes unused, says panel

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Significant volumes of the untreated sewage waste gets discharged directly into rivers and water bodies
One-third of the sewage treatment capacity created under one of the key river cleaning funds of the Environment Ministry is going unused, a new report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has said.
152 sewage treatment plants (STPs) in 15 states set up using funds of the National River Conservation Programme, add up to a capacity of 4,716 million litres per day (MLD). But, the study has found that only 3,126 MLD of sewage is being treated in these plants. Of the 152 STPs, nine are still under construction and 30 are not working at all. The CPCB team found that 28 of those surveyed were not working to satisfaction with levels of pollution of treated water above acceptable levels.
The panel has reported that Tamil Nadu is the worst performing State. Out of the 798.84 MLD capacity of sewage treatment created under the programme, only 394 MLD is being utilised. West Bengal too fared badly with the State being able to treat only 222.5 MLD sewage though the capacity was set up for 458.29 MLD.
The CPCB report has only covered the sewage systems the Environment Ministry has funded across the country. The total sewage capacity in tier I cities in the country, set up through different resources, adds up to 11,553.68 MLD, which even if used optimally, caters to less than one-third of the waste generated every day. The total sewage generated in these cities is 35,558.12 MLD.
In tier II towns, out of the 2,696 MLD of waste generated, only 233 MLD can be treated if the sewage treatment plants work at full capacity.
Significant volumes of the untreated sewage waste gets discharged directly into rivers and water bodies, ending up polluting these water sources to various degrees.
The spread of sewage treatment facilities across the metropolitans is also skewed in favour of two cities — Delhi and Mumbai. Of the entire sewage generation capacity set up in the country more than half is to cater to only these two metropolitans. Delhi is home to 29% of the total treatment capacity of 8,040 MLD in metropolitan cities. Mumbai has the second highest capacity at 2,130 MLD.
Of the 152 STPs, 9 are under construction, 30 are not working and 28 are not up to the mark
Tamil Nadu is the worst performing State; West Bengal too fares badly, says panel
Of the entire sewage generation capacity, more than half caters to Delhi and Mumbai

Methane spewing island rises from sea

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For the third time in 15 years, the movement of tectonic plates in the Makran area has caused a methane and mud spewing island to form off the coast of Gwadar in Balochistan, according to the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Pakistan.
Tuesday’s powerful (7.7 on the Richter scale) earthquake near Awaran jolted the seismically active Makran zone, director-general of the NIO Dr. Ali Rashid Tabrez told The Hindu on the phone from Karachi. The sea from Gwadar to Ormara had a vast stock of frozen methane gas below the sea bed and it was not uncommon to see bubbles in the water caused by methane gas escaping from fissures, he pointed out.
Explaining the development, he said when there was a seismic movement the gas deposits, which expand creating high pressure, pushed up a land mass of this kind.
The land mass — which had people rushing to the coast to view it — is 50 metres long, 20 to 30 metres wide and rises 10 metres above the water about two km off the coast of Gwadar. There is methane being emitted and mud oozing out. Dr. Tabrez said people shouldn’t go too near since there was some movement below the sea bed. No boating or fishing should be allowed either, he said. The NIO which has a station at Gwadar had sent its technical staff to observe, take samples and photograph the phenomenon. The “island” is made up of soft sediment, mostly mud, sand and even rock fragments, he said. This was observed in 1999 and in 2010 near Ormara, off the Hingol river where it enters the sea.
However, in the past it is observed that these “islands” decline slowly due to constant wave action in the sea. In 1999 it was observed that after four months, it had vanished. The sea bed showed up some remnants of the land mass at that time. This phenomenon was observed as far back as 1945 as well, he said.

Declaration against sexual violence signed

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Ministers from 113 countries have signed a declaration pledging new action to end sexual violence in conflict. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it prohibits amnesties for sexual violence in peace agreements. It also pledges to adopt a new International Protocol in 2014 to help ensure that evidence collected can stand up in court. Mr. Hague, who co-hosted Tuesday’s meeting on the sidelines of General Assembly, said Britain will be encouraging the 80 U.N. member states that haven’t signed the declaration to do so. He also announced that Britain will host a conference next year on sexual violence in conflict. (In picture, William Hague at left as Angelina Jolie speaks at a G8 Foreign Ministers meet in London in April on sexual violence against women.) — AP

Nuclear extravagance in Washington

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In rushing to purchase commercially untested reactors from the United States, New Delhi has glossed over concerns about safety and the scope of suppliers’ liability, while failing to assess profitability in the long run

Nuclear commerce is likely to feature prominently in the forthcoming discussion between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington. The U.S. government is keen to clinch some sales for its nuclear industry. The Prime Minister would like to advance the nuclear deal that has, so far, failed to yield a single contract for reactors. However, as we describe here, India’s plans to buy reactors from the U.S. are deeply problematic: they involve the expenditure of thousands of crores of Indian public money on arbitrarily selected American companies. The reactors on offer are commercially untested, and accompanied by unscientific promises about high levels of safety that are belied by the fierce determination of these companies to absolve themselves of responsibility for any accident.
Cost escalations
Public knowledge of these deals dates back to 2008 when William Burns, a senior U.S. diplomat, told the U.S. Senate that the Indian government had written a “strong Letter of Intent stating India’s intention to set aside at least two reactor sites with a minimum of 10,000 MWe generating capacity for U.S. firms.” It is customary for the government to go through a competitive bidding process, or at least a feasibility study before awarding a large contract. However, this commitment was made without even settling on broad details like the reactor-designs. In subsequent years, the two sites have been narrowed down to Mithi Virdi in Gujarat for Westinghouse, and Kovvada in Andha Pradesh for General Electric (GE).
The reactor proposed for Mithi Virdi is the AP1000 — a pressurised light water reactor. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse on an “early works agreement,” which is likely to be finalised during the Prime Minister’s visit.
No AP1000 has entered commercial operation anywhere in the world, although eight are being constructed — four each in China and the U.S. The AP1000 is based on the AP600 — a design that was described by the president of the U.S. Nuclear Energy Institute as one that “will compete in world and U.S. markets and maintain America’s global leadership.” In the event, not a single AP600 was ever constructed, because it could not compete economically.
It is evident that electricity from the AP1000 will also be expensive. In the Vogtle project, where two AP1000 reactors are being constructed in the U.S. state of Georgia, each reactor was initially estimated to cost approximately $7 billion.
Despite strong governmental support, including an offer of a loan guarantee for $8.3 billion, the plant has already been delayed by a year. Costs have increased, contributing to a downgrade of the associated corporations by financial rating agencies. Westinghouse, and the operator, Georgia Power, recently sued each other for nearly a billion dollars, with each blaming the other for delays and cost escalations.
In May, another U.S. utility, Duke Energy, suspended plans to construct AP1000 reactors in North Carolina. Last month, the same company cancelled two AP1000 reactors in Florida after total cost estimates had risen to “between $19 and $24 billion,” before the start of construction.
The reactor design chosen for Kovvada is GE’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). This design has not even been certified in the U.S. and not a single ESBWR is under construction anywhere. A few years ago, when talk of a “nuclear renaissance” was rife, a few companies explored the possibility of the ESBWR; one estimated that each reactor would cost $8.5 billion. All those plans are essentially frozen or cancelled.
The capital costs of both these American designs, per unit of installed capacity, are roughly the same as those of the French EPRs planned for Jaitapur. In a detailed analysis for the Economic and Political Weekly , we estimated that at these prices, first-year tariffs would be around Rs.15 per unit of electricity, even after allowing for substantially lower construction costs in India.
Moreover, several indirect subsidies are built into the government’s revenue model for imported reactors. These include cheap loans at taxpayer risk and an investment pattern where the government injects equity early during the construction process, only to receive an effective rate of return on capital well below that mandated by power sector regulations.
Liability law
Despite the government’s willingness to bear these high costs, contracts have been held up by a dispute over a relatively minor clause in India’s nuclear liability law. In his 2008 Senate testimony, Burns pointed out that “India also has committed to adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC),” which indemnifies the manufacturers of nuclear plants in the event of an accident. As Burns’ deputy, Robert Blake explained, this “would provide a very important legal protection and open the way for billions of dollars in American reactor exports.”
The U.S. engineered the CSC with a discriminatory “grandfather clause” that allows it to maintain its own distinct liability law. Since only four countries have ratified this outlying U.S. creation, the CSC has not even entered into force. Nevertheless, in 2010, the Indian government acquiesced to American demands and drafted a liability bill, almost entirely based on an annex to this convention.
The final law prevents victims from filing lawsuits against the manufacturer, and also caps the liability of the NPCIL at Rs.1,500 crore. In Fukushima — where the accident continues to cause devastation after two years — the costs of a clean-up are estimated to be several hundred times larger. As such, the law is heavily biased in favour of the industry. Nevertheless, the Americans are unhappy since, at the insistence of Parliament, the Indian law does not indemnify their companies outright but allows the NPCIL to recover the money paid out in compensation from the manufacturer.

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