GUWAHATI, May 3 – In a development that is likely to fuel intense debates in parts of the North-east, initial talks have started on the region having its first nuclear power station. Speaking at the press meet in Guwahati, Union Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh revealed that the Meghalaya Chief Minister had in a meeting last evening made it known that if uranium mining could be safely carried out in Meghalaya, then he would prefer that a nuclear power plant be based in either in the State or a neighbouring area including some place in Assam.
Significantly, Assam Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi who was present in the meeting purportedly told Ramesh that Assam would welcome the move to set up a nuclear power station. The significance of the meeting could be gauged from the fact that it had the telephonic participation of Dr Anil Kakodkar, the Indian Atomic Energy Commission chief.
It was stated that Dr Kakodkar was open about the idea, and favoured the formation of a study group to consider the “techno-economic feasibility” of such a project in the region.
Referring to the issue of uranium mining in Meghalaya, which has till now being opposed on safety grounds by a section of people, including some state leaders, he said that extracting the key mineral was essential for the success of the country’s civilian nuclear programme. Right now only about 50 per cent capacity utillisation was possible in the reactors due to a dearth of uranium.
While acknowledging that the Union Government would not do anything to disregard public opinion in Meghalaya, he said that Department of Atomic Energy would come out with a White Paper by May 31, which would be made available to the Meghalaya legislature and would be placed in the public domain for necessary discussions.
To allay fears over health concerns issuing from uranium mining, the Department of Atomic Energy would further invite a panel of doctors and scientists from Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital to respond to public queries through an outreach programme.
In another initiative, a group of decision-makers including public leaders would be taken to the Cuddapah region of Andhra Pradesh which has been earmarked for uranium mining.