Even as environmental activists protest against the proposed nuclear power plant in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said India could not afford to hit the “rewind button” and abandon nuclear energy, which presently accounts for three per cent of the country’s energy generation.
On Jaitapur, in particular, the minister said, “As far as ground level seismicity is concerned, I think those factors have been taken into account.” Adding, however, “I don’t think in Jaitapur a tsunami probability has been taken into account.”
Yet, he said, there can be no going back on nuclear energy. “Today, nuclear power accounts for about three per cent of our energy. Our objective is that we should aim at about six per cent by 2020 and 13 per cent by 2030. From a climate change point of view, it is the best source because it does not have any greenhouse gas emission,” he said on the sidelines of a conference here today.
However, he added, “It is natural in a post-Japan tsunami era to be cautious.”
“We need to look at our safety systems, at our safeguards, at our radioactive waste management but I don’t think India can abandon the nuclear option.”
On additional safeguards, he said: “I am waiting for the technical review being carried out by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Based on the safety review, we will decide whether additional studies need to be done.”
Ramesh noted Jaitapur was off the Arabian Sea and so was Bhavnagar. “The last tsunami that came on our west coast was in 1945. All these are probabilistic events. We have to take these into account factoring in our safeguards.”
He added that he would look at the power plants on coastal areas. “The tsunami in Japan is a wakeup call for us. For many years I believed there was no alternative to coastal locations to our power plants.”
“I think what has happened in Japan is of great concern,” Ramesh said, adding there should be no knee-jerk reaction. “We will need coastal locations, but we will also need to, in light of what has happened in Japan, need to relook at these issues without necessarily abandoning the principle that we need coastal locations.”