India pledges new nuclear plant will be safe
By Rama Lakshmi,
NEW DELHI — Faced with mounting opposition to a planned coastal nuclear power plant in western India, senior government officials pledged Tuesday to install stand-alone safety systems in each of the plant’s six reactors and to release the results of safety audits of India’s existing nuclear plants conducted after the recent tsunami-related crisis began in Japan.
Officials also said legislation is being prepared that will create an independent nuclear energy regulatory body to monitor the safety of nuclear facilities.
During the past week, dozens of anti-nuclear activists and villagers have clashed violently with police during protests against the proposed new plant in Jaitapur, in the western state of Maharashtra. Prithviraj Chavan, the state’s chief minister, made clear Tuesday that the plans will not be scrapped but promised greater transparency and tightening of safety norms for the facility’s reactors.
Chavan also promised higher compensation for villagers required to vacate their land for the plant, where plans call for two 2,650-megawatt reactors to be operational by 2019.
The French company Areva is participating in the Jaitapur project. Since India signed a landmark nuclear deal with the United States in 2008, it has set aside sites nationwide for new nuclear plants to be built with the assistance of U.S., French and Russian firms.
The government hopes to be producing 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2030.