The union ministry of environment and forests’ clearance to the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant at Ratnagiri seems to be well-timed for French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to India later this week.
“Many agreements such as the ones on intellectual property rights and confidential reports may be signed but the general framework agreement will not be signed during his visit,” said Atomic Energy Commission chairperson Srikumar Banerjee.
Banerjee ruled out the possibility of a commercial agreement with France-based Areva that is supplying the six European light water reactors to the 700-hectare Jaitapur plant — spread over five villages — being signed during Sarkozy’s visit. It may be signed by the year-end.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday gave the green signal to the plant saying nuclear power was a clean environment option because it does not emit greenhouse gases.
Work on constructing staff utilities on 238 hectares at the site can now begin. Ground breaking will take place only after the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) approves the plant design.
The first pair of 1,650-megawatt (MW) reactors will be operational by 2019. The Jaitapur projects and others like it in the pipeline will increase India’s nuclear power generation four-fold from 2.9% to 13% by 2030.
Local residents, who came together under the banner of the Konkan Bachao Samiti to oppose the project, said their protests will intensify. “It’s okay if Jairam Ramesh has given clearance but we will not allow the plant to be constructed,” said Pravin Gavankar, resident of Madban where the plant will be built.
The state completed land acquisition in January but only 33 of the 2,335 villagers have accepted compensation cheques. The state now has the task of convincing villagers.
“We have set up a group of ministers to work on enhanced compensation for villagers. I will fight with the agencies to ensure liberal compensation in terms of money or jobs,” chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said. “Half the homes have no electricity. We can’t let them languish in darkness but we will ensure we don’t damage the environment.”