"India needs to develop nuclear energy in addition to all other forms of energy to meet its ever-growing demand. With a large pool of talented engineers and scientists, India can confidently manage a large nuclear energy programme safely and efficiently," M.R. Srinivasan, former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, and expert committee member on Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), said in Coimbatore on Wednesday.

Delivering the graduation day address at SNMV College of Arts and Science, he said India had 20 operating nuclear power units, the oldest two having been in operation for more than four decades, and had a very good record in nuclear safety.

The former Chairman who had decided on the Kudankulam site in 1984 said “Fisher folk living around Kudankulam were no doubt greatly agitated when they saw on television the Fukushima accident in Japan. But certain professional agitators, with motives of their own, have worked on the fears of the innocent fisher folk. The agitators have delayed the start-up of the project by more than six months."

Maintaining that the site was one of the best for a nuclear power station, he said the design of the station, evolved in Russia, incorporated the most advanced safety measures. The design belonged to Generation 3 Plus. Fukushima reactors belonged to the first generation and lacked many safety features.

Lamenting that in recent years people were more engaged in stopping steel projects, aluminium projects, and others including nuclear power projects, he pointed out that there was a need for these projects.

"People are trying to stop because of greater concern for environmental issues. It is true that in earlier times, all over the world, environmental impact of such projects has not been addressed properly and hence some mistakes were committed. In India too, issues relating to rehabilitation of people affected by projects were handled in an inhuman manner," Mr. Srinivasan said.

The rational answer was that, projects had to be evaluated rigorously with regard to environmental impact and all due measures had to be taken to avoid adverse consequences. At the same time, rehabilitation must be attended to promptly and all amenities provided to the displaced people at the new locations and their livelihood ensured, he added.

Comparing the growth of India and China, Mr. Srinivasan said at the time of Independence, India and China were more or less at the same state of development. But today, though India had not done too badly, it was far behind in China is various achievements. It had to be acknowledged that the Chinese had worked very hard to bring about their economic success.

He urged the graduates to work free of corruption and use the education that they received to help those in need in whatever way the could.