When asked if the ministry had set a deadline for clearing the project, Ramesh said, "There is no deadline for the approval of the project but since the French President is coming in December, we hope to take a decision on it before his arrival."

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday voiced hope that concerns raised by locals on a nuclear power plant to be built in collaboration with France in Maharashtra would be addressed and decision taken on the project before President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit in December.

The Jaitpur plant “is the first result of the nuclear agreement that is going to be visible. It would give the France-India relationship completely different dimensions, so I would only hope that the concerns raised by locals against the project are adequately addressed,” the Minister said.

The six-unit nuclear power project is to be set up at Jaitpur in Ratnagiri using the technological know-how from France but there has been strong opposition from local NGOs who are demanding that it be scrapped citing radiation threat and alleged inadequate land compensation.

A nod by Ramesh’s Ministry to the project before the French President’s visit would save the authorities from an embarrassment as signing of a final agreement on the plant is understood to be high on Sarkozy’s agenda.

The Minister, while maintaining that the project based on clean energy represents a certain strategic investment, made it clear that there was no question of an eyewash.

“We will look at the EIA report very, very carefully,” he said.

The final Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report comprising of two extensive volumes was submitted on Tuesday to the Environment Ministry by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) after conducting public hearing at the site.

The Ministry’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) will now decide the fate of the project being constructed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd in 692 hectares of land. It is one of the largest proposed projects in Asia with the configuration of 6x1650 MW.

Ramesh said safety related issues with nuclear reactors will be looked at by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and not by Environment Ministry. “I have told (NPCIL) and conveyed National Security Advisor (NSA) also who is dealing the project that all the issues of land acquisition and compensation have to be resolved satisfactorily. One assumes the public sector company to be doing its job well,” the Minister said.

When asked if the ministry has set a deadline for deciding the fate of the project, Ramesh said, “There is no deadline for the approval of the project but since the French President is coming in December we hope to take a decision on it before his arrival.”

According to sources, the EIA report has detailed mitigation and environmental management plans for dealing with environmental impact while looking at the occupational health, air, water, land and noise, radiological pollution and marine environment.