Reiterating the Government’s commitment to ensure full safety of nuclear power plants, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed confidence that the country would he able to meet the target of raising it nuclear power capacity to 27,000 MW over the next 10 years.
Laying the foundation stone for a 2,800 MW nuclear power project in Fatehabad, he noted that over the past 10 years the country was able to add more capacity in the power sector than what was achieved in the 55 years before that.
Elaborating on the issue of nuclear safety, he recalled that in recent years the Government had conducted a thorough review of all the nuclear power plants in the country and several new measures were taken to make them safer. “We regularly test our safety standards against other countries to ensure that India always remained as a foremost country in the entire world in the area of nuclear safety’’.
He also noted that India was able to start having commerce and trade in the area of nuclear energy with other counties in 2008 following an agreement with the U.S. on nuclear cooperation. “[Due to the agreement] we are now able to get latest nuclear technologies as also adequate supply of nuclear fuel from other countries’’.
The nuclear power project, for which the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone, would consist of four reactors of 700 MW each. Initially two reactors would be erected and commissioned over the next six to seven years.
In the pipeline since 2009, the project had faced stiff resistance from environmental activists as well as people living in the area. Authorities achieved a breakthrough last year after most of the farmers, on whose land the project comes up, agreed to part with it and end their protest. There are, however, many more hurdles yet to be crossed.
In particular, a section of farmers in the neighbourhood has been protesting against the proposal to use water from the Bhakra dam for the plant on the ground that it would affect irrigation supplies and drinking water requirements.
The former Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. V.K. Singh, and a retired IAS officer, M.G. Devasahayam, have been among those in the forefront of the agitation. The protests have become more strident following the Fukushima incident in Japan.
The Prime Minister, in his speech noted that the site for the project was selected after a very careful review with adequate attention to all issues and said that about eight to 10 lakh persons could get employment during the construction of the first phase of the project.