PM seeks church help to quell anti-nuke protests
To overcome resistance to nuclear power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought help from unlikely quarters: the church.delhi Updated: Oct 14, 2011 01:10 IST
To overcome resistance to nuclear power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sought help from unlikely quarters: the church.
On Wednesday, the PM privately met the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India chief and Mumbai Archbishop, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, seeking his help in assuaging Christian fishermen communities who are the backbone of the opposition to the Koodankulam and Jaitapur nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra respectively.
Along with other grassroots bodies, the church’s resentment against the two N-plants stems from their locations: coastal areas crowded by Christian communities. Protests have grown louder in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima incident.
The Russian-built Koodankulam plant has not yet started, while work on the Jaitapur plant has yet to commence.
India, which operates 20 nuclear plants, plans to quadruple its 4,780MW of nuclear power to 20,000MW by 2020 to meet rising energy demands of a booming economy.
Shortly after a tsunami crippled the plant at Fukushima, Singh had ordered a multi-dimensional safety review of all existing plants, which suggested additional safety measures.
The PM briefed Cardinal Gracias on the steps taken to ensure failsafe nuclear safety. The church leader, however, told Singh that the government’s assurances have helped little because “people perceive the government to be an interested party”.
“I met the PM at his request. He asked me what more could be done to allay fears. I said there should be an independent safety review and I have some experts on mind. And ultimately local people must feel confident,” Gracias told HT.
The PMO will send a team to Gracias’ Mumbai office shortly to take the process forward, the cardinal said.