Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday made a strong case for nuclear energy, which West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is against.
Addressing the closing ceremony of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics’ diamond jubilee here, Singh said: ““I am convinced that nuclear energy will play an important role in our quest for a clean and environmentally friendly energy mix as a major locomotive programme.” Banerjee, sharing the dais, appeared to be in discomfort when he made the statement.
The Prime Minister’s push for nuclear energy came days after the Trinamool-Congress coalition government announced a policy banning nuclear power plants including the one that was proposed at Haripur in East Midnapore district.
On August 17, West Bengal power minister Manish Gupta said the government will not budge from its stand of disallowing nuclear plants. “The erstwhile Left Front government had misled the people about the Haripur project. Our government has no plans to set up nuclear power plants in any other parts of the state,” he said in the assembly.
The Prime Minister had during his visit to Russia in 2009 signed an agreement for setting up five nuclear power plants in India, including the one at Haripur. Land was accordingly allotted to Russian firm Rosatom for developing a nuclear park for its 1000MW atomic power plants.
Local farmers and fishermen opposed the land allotment fearing health hazards. Trinamool Congress backed their agitation, following which the Russian firm wanted to shift the project from Haripur to adjoining Orissa.
But on Sunday, the Prime Minister allayed health fears. “We have to ensure that the use of nuclear energy in India meets the highest safety standards. This is a matter on which there can be no compromise. I would call upon the Saha Institute and similar other institutes to contribute to enhancing the safety of our nuclear reactors,” he said.
He also welcomed public sector contributions in research work and lamented the low drive of Indians to file patents.