Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strong push for nuclear energy which he wants trebled by 2024, ally Shiv Sena on Monday said it will continue to back those opposed to the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra.
"It has been our stand that Shiv Sena will support the locals of Jaitapur who have been opposing the plant. If there is an opposition, then why should we go against the will of the locals. After all, we are working for the development of the people," senior Shiv Sena leader and state's industries minister Subhash Desai told reporters.
Locals and anti-nuclear activists have been holding protests against the proposed plant over "scientific and environmental" concerns and Shiv Sena has been actively backing them.
"We (Shiv Sena) believe that if the need for power (for Maharashtra) is sufficed by other sources of energy including conventional and non-conventional resources, then why set up a destructive project," he said.
Shiv Sena is a partner in BJP-led governments both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
The project is proposed to be set up in collaboration with French company Areva in the coastal Jaitapur village in Ratnagiri district. It will have six units of 1650 MW each built with Areva's European Pressurised Reactor technology. JNPP would be one of the costliest nuclear power plant projects considering its sheer size and the new technology.
After three years of negotiations, India and France had in March last year agreed on the cost of power that will be generated, clearing a major hurdle in the path of the project.
The two sides had agreed on Rs 6 per unit, down from Rs 9.18 per unit quoted by Areva initially which was strongly opposed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and NPCIL.
Desai said the previous UPA government had failed to convince the locals about the safety aspects of the project.
"The government failed to convince the locals about the benefits and safety aspects of the project. Therefore, there have been so many protests. We will continue to support the locals," Desai said.
On his first visit to the DAE in July last year after becoming Prime Minister, Modi had promised his full support for the implementation of its ambitious expansion programme and expressed the hope that the atomic establishment would meet the target of increasing the installed capacity by three times from the present level of 5780 MW by 2023-24.
India is seeking to conclude a civil nuclear cooperation pact with Japan negotiations for which started in 2010. Inking a pact with Japan is critical for India to operationalise civil nuclear power pacts already concluded with other countries.
According to US secretary of state John Kerry, on India visit to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, cooperation in civil nuclear energy is likely to figure prominently in talks between Modi and President Barak Obama when the latter arrives in New Delhi later this month to attend the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest.