Calcutta, Sept. 17: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today batted for nuclear power, leaving the issue to “scientists”, though his party high command has termed the energy source unviable.
“You just cannot avoid nuclear power,” the chief minister said at the CII national executive meeting in Calcutta.
The Left parties are not opposed to nuclear energy as such but feel that it would cost much more than traditional sources like thermal power and hit farmers and the middle class hard. The Left also believes that nuclear co-operation with the US will eventually make India its stooge.
The chief minister echoed the party leadership’s concerns on cost but he built his case for nuclear power against the backdrop of global warming, for which thermal power is also blamed.
Bhattacharjee’s more unequivocal support to nuclear power came in a reply to CII national chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal’s question on the need for nuclear power.
The chief minister argued that Bengal was heavily dependent on thermal power and there was need for other sources, including nuclear.
However, the chief minister declined to share the optimism of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The Prime Minister says we have entered the era of nuclear renaissance. But we have some doubts: what will be the price of nuclear power' There are environmental issues as well. All these are to be studied by planners, scientists, economists and companies,” Bhattacharjee said.
He added that “it’s more a technical opinion than a political opinion”. The statement could be interpreted as a signal that the issue needs to be tackled at the government level rather than on the political front.
“In our state, I have decided to let scientists debate among themselves and come to a consensus before going ahead,” the chief minister said.
Replying to a question on opposition from some green activists, Bhattacharjee said: “Sometimes I feel environmentalists are fundamentalists.”
Bhattacharjee did not respond to a question on the deal with the US.
“There is a general acceptance from his side on the need for nuclear power. There is a ‘yes’ but a cautious ‘yes’,” Mittal said after the interaction.
While Left parties have said nuclear power costs more, scientists are divided. A Nuclear Power Corporation official said the cost of power from imported nuclear reactors would work out to about Rs 2.50 per unit in 2014, which would be comparable to the cost of power from coal.
But independent power analysts have said nuclear power would cost Rs 3.89 to Rs 5.4 a unit and thermal around Rs 2.51. An argument in favour of nuclear power is that in the long run, the clean energy source will work out cheaper than the highly polluting thermal alternative.
Bengal had chosen Haripur in East Midnapore as the possible location for a nuclear power plant but its fate is linked to the India-US nuke deal.