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Consider concerns over Jaitapur nuclear project: CPI

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Communist Party of India on Wednesday asked the Centre to take into account public demonstrations in Maharashtra against the setting up of nuclear power plants there and raised environmental issues connected with the Jaitapur project.

It urged the government to make public the contract signed between French and Indian nuclear power companies.

Demanding that the government review the environmental clearance to the Jaitapur plant, the CPI also flagged issues of public assessment of the safety of the plant design, expressed apprehensions over possible cost overruns and clarity on France's insistence on the Vienna Convention to limit nuclear liability.

Arrest no answer

Referring to the demonstrations by various organisations, CPI MP D. Raja, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said that instead of engaging with the concerns of people about safety implications, impact on their livelihood and other issues, the government of Maharashtra arrested some 1,500 people from the site. The action was aimed at preventing any embarrassment during the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“Evading responsibility”

He said the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) should have been given the go-ahead only after it submitted a supplementary plan to conserve biodiversity, instead of being granted conditional clearance and one-year time to come up with the plan. The move, he said, was “a disingenuous attempt” by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to evade its responsibility.

Plants' safety

The Ministry should also have commissioned a study by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board on the safety of the proposed plants before granting clearance and demanded that the Board follow international standards by holding a public assessment of the safety of the plant design.

Expressing scepticism at the cost, he said reports quoting NPCIL officials maintain that the estimated cost of the first two reactors would be Rs.33,000 crore when the French company Areva, which is building these plants in India, has cost overruns of Rs.30,000 crore for each of the two reactors it was building in its country and Finland.

Referring to Mr. Sarkozy's insistence that India comply with the Vienna Convention on nuclear liability, the CPI leader expressed concern that the NPCIL might renounce this right of recourse that the new Indian liability law provides for in a contract with Areva and assume full responsibility for a nuclear accident.

Subversion

“I believe that this would be a subversion of the Indian nuclear liability law. Since the NPCIL is a public sector company, I believe that the contract between NPCIL and Areva, including all matters related to nuclear liability, must be placed in the public domain,” the letter said.

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