Hazard Concerns: MIC at Bhopal and Virginia and the Indian Nuclear Liability Act
Oblivious to the anger and outrage expressed throughout the world after the methyl isocyanate leak in December 1984, the continued storage of MIC at the parent West Virginia plant until 2011, despite several accidents, indicates the limited effect of public safety concerns on corporate strategy. As in India, neither the US executive nor the judiciary seemed capable of withstanding pressures exerted by the chemical processing industry. This is an ongoing story of struggle. What gave Bhopal a fresh salience in the public mind was the Indian government’s proposal to buy nuclear power reactors from the US, and to agree to legislation which would satisfy US manufacturers of the limits to their liability. Disconcertingly for the government, the Bhopal chief judicial magistrate’s judgment in 2010 led to an explosion of public fury, forcing the government to introduce clauses in the nuclear liability legislation laying down responsibility on the technology supplier. If organic chemicals have awakened the world to the dangers of chemical substances, Bhopal brought home the fraught nature of industrial processes involving exothermic reactions.
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