Government pushes for Jaitapur n-project with added safety, higher compensation (Roundup)April 26th, 2011 - 9:42 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) The government is pushing ahead with the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra with added safety measures and a new compensation package for displaced people, besides setting up at an autonomous nuclear regulatory authority, a minister said Tuesday.
“A generous new compensation package has been worked out by state government and NPCIL (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 press conference.
This was among a slew of decisions taken at a meeting convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday on the current status of the Jaitapur project and safety concerns about India’s nuclear programme arising from Japan’s Fukushima atomic power plant crisis.
The meeting was attended by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Narayanasamy, Atomic Energy Commission chief Srikumar Banerjee, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and NPCIL chairman S.K. Jain.
“The government will introduce a bill in the next session of parliament to create an independent and autonomous Nuclear Regulatory Authority of India that will subsume the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB),” Narayanasamy said.
He said that at the meeting, the NPCIL chairman assured “that each of the 35 concerns stipulated as part of the environmental review will be adhered to in a fully transparent manner”.
He added that the Jaitapur project will be implemented in a phased manner, with the first two reactors of 1,650 MW each to be operational by 2019. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment of these reactors will be done when both are operational. The environmental adherence to the project was provided in November 2010.
It was noted each reactor will have its “own stand-alone safety and operational system” to avoid the cascading effect like happened at Fukushima after the March 11 devastating earthquake and tsunami.
The minister, who was flanked by Ramesh and Chavan at the press conference, said that the government will make all efforts at Jaitapur “to engage local communities and address their fears in a credible manner”, with “livelihood of local fishermen given the highest priority”.
Narayanasamy said that the prime minister underscored that safety of nuclear power plants is a matter of highest priority and that there is a need for improving public communication and outreach on the part of the Department of Atomic Energy and NPCIL.
The meeting also reiterated that “India’s energy needs are vast and growing and nuclear energy is an important clean energy option” and this will be pursued with full regard to the safety, livelihood and security of the people.
It was also decided that the country will tap the best available expertise to ensure the highest levels of safety.
“The government will invite the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) to assist its own safety reviews and audit,” said Narayanasamy.
The government has also decided that the initial results of the six safety review committees set up by the prime minister after the Fukushima accident will be made public and action taken on previous safety reviews will be put in the public domain.
“All reactors and technologies, whether indigenous or imported, without exception will meet the safety standards that are stipulated by the regulatory authorities and there will be complete transparency in the functioning of the nuclear power programme,” he said.
Prithviraj Chavan said the Jaitpur protests were largely based on “rumours”. There were “lots of outsiders who have a definitely political view”, he added, alluding to the Shiv Sena’s opposition to the project.
“There is no question of a pause and we are ready to talk to people and address their concerns,” asserted Chavan.
Atomic Energy Commission chief Srikumar Banerjee said that site selection for putting up a nuclear plant is a long and stringent process and the Jaitapur site was cleared somewhere between 1985-88.
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