Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cong whips out nuclear power generation as UPA poll plank


New Delhi: In election season, Congress ministers are sure to appear at party office and iterate the achievements of the government. So, it was not surprising that Union minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was at the Congress party briefing on Wednesday evening, and talked at length about nuclear power generation.

The India-U.S. civil nuclear deal was seen as one of the high points of UPA1, especially with the win in the confidence motion in November, 2008, when the CPI-M led Left Front withdrew support to the government. Narayanasamy said that 19 of the nuclear reactors were generating electricity at 80 per cent capacity because after the India-US civil nuclear deal of 2008, India does not have trouble in importing uranium. He clarified that India imports 60 per cent of its uranium needs, while domestic uranium provides the remaining amount.

He has also disclosed that mining at uranium sites in Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand will peak in nine months’ time. The mines in Andhra have 67,000 tonnes reserves. And after this, capacity generation will touch 90 per cent, he said.

Under the 12th Five Year Plan, electricity to be generated through nuclear facilities would touch 10,000 mega watts (mW) and the total capacity by 2017 would be 17, 400 mW, and 27,480 mW by 2023/24. He also hit out against the anti-nuclear power lobby and asserted that all of the nuclear reactors were around 20 years old and they are functioning without any mishap, and said the policy of the government with regard to nuclear reactors was “Safety first, power generation later.”

He said that the international representatives who conducted inspections at the nuclear facilities found safety conditions as good as anywhere else in the world. He was also careful to mention that Indian teams too visited nuclear facilities in other countries.

He said at Koodankulam there were seven layers of safety mechanism instead of the usual five. He said because of the protest agitations at Koodankulam, the project was delayed by a year and that it resulted in a loss of Rs 2,200 crore. The minister also revealed that the government has set up the corpus fund of Rs 1500 crore under the civil nuclear liability law and that the rules have been notified, which will be used for compensation in case of an accident. He said that 17 clearances would be required for all new nuclear projects.

He did concede that many countries, including the U.S. And Russia had objections to the liability law, but that negotiations are underway. He said that at the end of the day, it is the law of the land that will prevail, and other countries will have to abide by the liability law. He has also argued the case for nuclear power-generated electricity, that the central government sold electricity generated at Kalpakkam at 69 paise, and at Rs. 1.15 from other reactors, and said that the state governments them charged Rs 7.50 to Rs 8 for it.

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