The Centre will go ahead with the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power park in Maharashtra. A high-level meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday decided to set up an autonomous Nuclear Authority of India to address people’s safety concerns.
The meeting also decided to provide a higher compensation for displaced people. “A generous new compensation package has been worked out by state government and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and will be announced soon,” Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy said at a news conference after the meeting.
Following the Fukushima disaster, there have been apprehensions about the safety of nuclear plants and this added fuel to protests in Jaitapur. The meeting acknowledged the need for better safety standards and decided to put each of the six reactors at Jaitapur under their own operations system.
Government leaders said the operational safety review team of the International Atomic Energy Agency will be invited to conduct safety reviews and audit of all nuclear plants. “The government will also put all safety review reports, including those undertaken after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl , in the public domain,” Narayanswamy said after the meeting.
The meeting was attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan , Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, NSA Shiv Shankar Menon, Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy and NPCIL chairman, apart from Narayanswamy. The proposed Nuclear Regulatory Authority will be an autonomous body answerable to Parliament. It will subsume the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. The government will introduce a Bill to this effect in the monsoon session of Parliament.
At present, the regulator is deeply embedded in the atomic energy establishment, which is the only entity that can set up a nuclear power plant. The AERB is answerable to the Department of Atomic Energy.
The formation of an independent regulator, separate from the project developers, is aimed at avoiding any conflict of interest and has been a long-standing demand. Recently, Ramesh had written to Prime Minister Singh suggesting a rethink on the structure of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
The plant site at Jaitapur had seen violent clashes over the last week, with the Shiv Sena backing the protests. Clashes between protesters and police last week killed one fisherman and injured at least 20 near the plant site.
Chavan said he would continue to have dialogue with the people of the area till they overcome their reservations. “The protests in Jaitapur are on account of misconceptions and rumours. I have engaged with civil society activists, villagers, organised meetings with experts and NPCIL officials. I will continue to do so till I can allay everyone’s fear. People’s safety will not be compromised,” he said.
At present, India operates 20 small nuclear reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW, or 3% of total power capacity. It hopes to increase nuclear capacity to 7,280 MW by next year, more than 20,000 MW by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032, adding nearly 30 reactors. Economic Times