After a debate that raged on for more than four hours, on the positives and negatives of nuclear energy in the backdrop of the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday said that his party would oppose the project till a consensus is formed amongst locals.
Close on the heels of the Zilla Parishad elections early next year, Thackeray announced the party's support to an audience that comprised project-affected people from Jaitapur and Tarapur, as well as officials of India's nuclear establishment including Srikukumar Banerjee, present chairperson of the Atomic Energy Commission, and its former chairperson, Anil Kakodkar.
On the panel of the debate, titled 'Jaitapur project, to have or not to have'- organised by the Sena - were panelists from the nuclear establishment, as well as anti-nuclear activists.
"The project has its pluses as well as minuses, and we need to know why there is opposition by locals. We are not against scientists but we are against the government that is responsible for proposing this nuclear plant in Konkan," said Thackeray. "We want the project to get cancelled."
"The project is so good that we don't want it in Jaitapur. Take it to another state and we will buy power from them, just like Germany buys power from France, Thackeray said.
Referring to alleged police repression in the project-affected village, Thackeray narrated a meeting with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. "The CM told me that foreigners are instigating villagers. But the CM's party president is also a foreigner. It is indeed serious if foreigners are involved, but what has the government done to deal with these elements?" said Thackeray.
Officials from the nuclear establishment, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of nuclear energy in a power-hungry country. Anti-nuclear activists such as Vivek Monteiro and Surendra Gadekar raised questions on issues of storage of spent fuel, disposal of high-level waste and radiation from nuclear power plants.
Thackeray also raised doubts over the manner in which French company Areva was chosen to supply European Pressurised Reactors for the Jaitapur plant. "There were no tenders invited before awarding the contract to Areva. The central government went ahead and signed a memorandum of understanding with the French," he said.