Nuclear plant in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur cleared: says Ramesh

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MUMBAI - In a major fillip to resolving Maharashtra’s power crisis, the central government has accorded environmental clearance to the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project slated to come up in Ratnagiri district, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said Sunday.

The approval has been granted subject to 35 conditions and safeguards, including 23 specific to the project and other general conditions, Ramesh said, handing over the clearance certificate to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the French Ambassador to India and officials of the French company Areva, which will be constructing the project.

In the first phase, two of six proposed units, each with a capacity of 1,650 MW will come up at Madban village, and the entire project is expected to cater to the overall energy requirements of the state for the next 25 years.

The state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NCPIL) will now initiate the commercial negotiations with Areva for the project, from where power will be progressively available from 2016 onwards.

The second phase of the project would have four European pressurised reactors, and the total estimated cost is around Rs.60,000 crore ($130 billion).

The first phase is expected to be completed within the next 3-4 years, and the rest will be completed by 2018.

This will be India’s first large-capacity plant using imported equipment after a three-decade global nuclear trade ban was lifted in 2008.

The environmental clearance has been granted after balancing the objectives of economic growth, fuel-mix objectives, strategic diplomacy after the India-US civilian nuclear deal and environmental concerns, Ramesh said.

“Nuclear energy is a cleaner option. It is also significantly less land-intensive and does not emit greenhouse gases (GHG). If India is to implement its commitment to prevent climate change and grow its energy production, I am sure that nuclear energy is the most suitable option,” he said

At the same time, Ramesh acknowledged that the Western Ghats - where the mega-project will come up - is an ecologically sensitive region and the central government would work with the state government to conduct studies on the carrying capacity of the area, besides the cumulative environmental impact in Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of the coastal Konkan region.

“Presently, we do the environmental impact assessment on project-to-project basis but that is not the ideal way. In this region, a number of coal-based power projects and mining projects are coming up. Hence we need to look at the overall environment impact assessment,” Ramesh said.

He also denied allegations that he was opposed to all development projects in the name of environment and said that his ministry gave clearance to 95 percent of the projects while 85 percent were granted forest approval.

In Jaitapur’s case, the green signal was granted in 80 days after the NPCIL submitted its environmental impact assessment report.

Presently, nuclear energy contributes around 2.9 percent of India’s electricity generating capacity and the country aims to increase it to about 6 percent by 2020 and to nearly 13 percent by 2030, the minister said.

Speaking on the occasion, Chavan said that the project would require 938 hectares of land in five villages and would displace 2,335 families.

He said though the final compensation award has been declared as per the current laws on rehabilitation and relief, the matter has been referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM), which has recommended enhancement of compensation.

Chavan allayed fears on account of waste disposal from the nuclear plant saying that the waste fuel management would be under the supervision of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the waste would not escape the limits of the boundary of the plant.

However, the mega-investment in the nuclear power plant would change the face of the entire Konkan region and surroundings, Chavan said.

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman S. Banerjee said that though the country had an indigenous capability of establishing nuclear reactors for nuclear energy and had developed a full cycle technology to support that, the energy demands were much higher.

In order to meet the growing demands, India had decided to establish large size project with power plants of over 1000 MW, he said,

In this context, the government has decided to establish five coastal energy parks, which will have advantage of bringing in heavy equipment and would reduce the exclusion zone by half.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is also the energy minister, said that the Jaitapur project will take care of the state’s power requirements for the next 25 years.

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