Government committed to nuclear energy: PM

March 24th, 2008 - 7:13 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) Even as the India-US civilian nuclear deal remains mired in domestic politics, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said the government was committed to further development of nuclear and other alternative sources of energy that could help the country achieve energy security. “We must also further develop our nuclear energy potential,” Manmohan Singh said while laying the foundation stone of the 1,500 MW Pragati power project in Bawana, just outside Delhi.

“Our government is committed to further development of nuclear energy both as an environment-friendly source of power and as a means of widening the energy basket available to us,” he stressed amid reports that the government has cut allocations for nuclear energy in the budget for 2008-2009 by over $300 million.

“Our strategy for energy security is a multi-pronged strategy. We do not have the luxury of depending on only one or two sources,” he said.

“While some sources of energy may be cheap today, we have to think for the future, we have to think for future generations. Our energy needs are bound to grow,” he added.

“We will be failing in our duty to our nation, and to posterity, if we do not look ahead and take steps not just for today or tomorrow, but for future generations,” the prime minister stressed.

Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar has admitted that budget cuts for nuclear energy programmes have been done on the recommendations of the Department of Atomic Energy itself and should not be misconstrued as the government’s dilution of its commitment to nuclear energy.

The cuts in the allocation are also seen as indicative of the government’s hope that it will be able to wrap up the nuclear deal, which will pave the way for the resumption of global civil nuclear trade with India.

The prime minister’s emphasis on the importance of nuclear energy as an environmentally clean source of energy is a pointer to the government’s new strategy to sell nuclear energy as clean energy both at home and in the Nuclear Suppliers Group countries to win their support.

The recent appointment of Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the India-US nuclear deal Shyam Saran as his special envoy on climate change also underlined the government’s new approach towards marketing the nuclear deal to win over the sceptics.

The nuclear deal is at present stuck in domestic politics as the Left allies have still to approve India’s draft pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before the government can go ahead with the nuclear deal.

The Bawana project is based on natural gas and is to be commissioned ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

This power project with an investment of over Rs.40 billion is expected to bridge a major gap in the city’s electricity requirements and also meet the power required for Delhi to host the Commonwealth Games.

Referring to the booming economic growth at eight to nine percent per annum, Manmohan Singh said the demand for electricity was exceeding the existing sources of supply.

“With our economy growing at eight to nine percent every annum, with growing urbanisation and rising prosperity, the demand for electricity is outpacing existing sources of supply,” he said.

“Our government has taken many steps to increase coal production. We are also trying to develop hydro-electricity. But we also have to keep in mind environmental concerns and concerns about people displaced by mining and dams. We are blessed with ample solar energy but it will be some time before we can tap this source in a large quantity.”

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