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Nuclear plant ruled out

Calcutta, Aug. 17: The Mamata Banerjee government has scrapped a proposed nuclear power plant in East Midnapore that had been envisaged in an agreement with Russia.

During his visit to Russia in 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed an agreement to set up five nuclear plants in India, including one in Haripur.

Replying to a question tabled by CPM MLA Tajmul Hossein in the Assembly today, power minister Manish Gupta said: “When you were in power, you had misled the people of Haripur by saying that there would be economic development if the nuclear power plant came up there. We have rejected the proposal.”

Later, Gupta said that according to the norms of setting up a nuclear plant, there can be no human habitation within a 10km radius of the unit. “The Haripur area in Contai block I is a multi-crop region. About 1 lakh people live there. They will have to be displaced if a nuclear plant has to be set up. This is not a practical proposal,” he said.

Gupta said if there was a power shortfall because of the scrapping of the nuclear plant, “we would buy power from the National Grid Corporation”. The proposed Haripur plant was supposed to generate 6,000MW, he added.

The Centre had cleared the project in January last year after a meeting between then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then environment minister Jairam Ramesh at Writers’.

Since then, Trinamul had led protests in Haripur against land acquisition for the project. The protests were led by Union minister of state for rural development Sisir Adhikari and his son, Tamluk MP Subhendu.

“At least 50,000 fishermen also live in Haripur. The question of building a nuclear reactor there does not arise. We had made this point clear to the Prime Minister last year,” Sisir said today.

The Nuclear Power Corporation had, after consultations with the earlier Bengal government, identified Haripur as a possible site for two imported Russian reactors similar to the two 1000-MW reactors that have been constructed at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. But the NPC had not set any timeline for construction.

Last month, NPC chairman and managing director Shreyans Jain had said the agency would try to gain the confidence and consent of the state and the local community.

If the Haripur site does not become available for nuclear reactors, India’s nuclear power programme targets will be affected only incrementally. India currently has 20 operating reactors with an installed capacity of 4,780MW, but seven reactors, including the two Kudankulam reactors, are under construction.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster last year had stirred a slowdown in nuclear expansion plans worldwide. The Indian government had initiated a safety review after the incident.

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