Environment minister Jairam Ramesh wanted to put the Jaitapur nuclear power project on hold till all safety concerns were dealt but had to retract after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was told on Tuesday that it would provide Shiv Sena a reason for a political cheer.
Shiv Sena Executive President Udday Thackeray had demanded scrapping of the 9,600 MW Jaitapur nuclear park project on ecological and safety grounds. And, would putting the project on hold meant political victory of Congress arch rival in Maharashtra.
“Outsiders are creating trouble at Jaitapur. We are reaching to people and trying to convince them,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said, after meeting the PM.
He had apparently told the PM that pausing the project at this moment will not be politically correct, as the state government had taken up cudgels against imported protestors. And, he was backed by Atomic Energy Commission secretary S K Banerjee, who said that the project has already been delayed for two decades. The Union Cabinet approved the project in 1990s.
Ramesh wanted the Jaitapur project to be put on hold following Fukushima incident and indicated last week that the government was willing to pause it.
“The negative public perceptions at Jaitapur have been caused, in large measure, because of this capacity — two plants would have been opposed no doubt, but would not have caused the same disquiet as six plants. I am well aware of the technical and economic advantages of a nuclear park but when there is a risk perception, we should, in my view, not be dogmatic,” Ramesh had told the PM in a letter late last month.
Chavan, whose had pushed for the Jaitapur as Union Science and Technology minister, did not agree with Ramesh and accused the civil society of spreading rumours and said any such move will send a wrong message to the world nuclear community.
Banerjee, who made a detailed presentation on safety aspects of Jaitapur plant, informed that a eight km long hole will be dug at the project site to study its safety aspects related to earthquake. “Jaitapur is in seismic zone III and Fukushima was in zone V. It is a huge difference,” he later told reporters.
The only positive for Ramesh from the meeting was agreement to his suggestion to have an independent regulator for the nuclear sector in place of Atomic Energy Board, which is under the Department of Atomic Energy.
The Maharashtra Chief Minister also said an announcement compensation for villagers, whose land has been acquired, will be announced soon. The PM asked the state government will make a renewed effort to reach out to locals people.
But Ramesh and Chavan agreed that certain people have ideological opposition to nuclear power their views cannot be changed. “I cannot force Prakash Karat to change his view,” Chavan said, with Ramesh nodding in agreement.