Friday, 10 July 2015

Jaitapur Atomic plant: Need of the hour



For India, a country which is currently aiming to be the global hub for manufacturing, competing with China, atomic power plant like the one proposed in Jaitapur is the need of the hour. However, political parties are trying to use it to gain political mileage & taking stands to oppose each other. Locals are opposing the project strongly. Most common question raised by the locals is, “Why Jaitapur? & more importantly why a nuclear power plant when there are alternate sources of energy in abundance”. No one is considering the other side of the story. In current turbulent times of world economy, there is no alternative to industrialization if we are to become a sustainable economy. Power plant would lead to the development & growth in the region & thus there is no alternative to projects like Jaitapur Power plant.
Constructing the large scale power plants & running them efficiently will require huge commitment from the government. However, we currently do not have such large funds available with us. At the same time multinationals from Russia, France, US have shown tremendous interest in building large power plants in India. If we keep these multinationals at the bay we may be missing out on 3 – 5 Lacs crore worth of investments in India, which our country currently cannot afford.
Other aspect of Atomic energy, national security is also equally important. India is surrounded by nations with atomic warheads & relationships in spite of repeated efforts haven’t really been in best of the shapes. In such a critical case, unless atomic warheads are destroyed on global scale retaining capability for national security & defense is essentially inevitable. In the absence of a strong nuclear energy program research & development for nuclear warheads is not possible.
Why is there a strong resistance to nuclear energy? Following are major perceived threats on global platform
1. Potential global destruction that atomic warheads can cause.
2. Radiations that can cause various complications & threat is possesses to living beings.
3. Environmental issues.
Advanced research has been going on for considerable amount of time for effects of Radiations & how best to keep radiation levels to acceptable levels. International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) has been working on research with support from across the world.
Striking the right balance between environment & developments is extremely delicate task.
Jaitapur Challenge
Jaitapur, a small port in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra hit the news headlines in 2010 when Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. The Nuclear Power Plant was approved during Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to India in December 2010 thus giving French multinational Areva the contract to construct 6 reactors, each of 1650 MW capacity totaling to 9,900 MW.
If the power plant goes operational to the full capacity, it will be the largest in the world, replacing 8,200 MW Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
In case of Jaitapur, though the number of people standing against the project is small, it is not negligible. Everyone has been talking about the radiation & ill effects that it brings to the environment the real concern for common man is different. For politicians, it is an opportunity to take on their opponents & to showcase their might, people who are not even qualified to talk about petty issues are discussing atomic energy & trying to link its impact on livelihoods of the locals.
For locals who may have to relocate are worried about their social standing. For businessman community, the challenge is different. For them development would mean increased wages to workers. For farmers, they are worried about effect of radiation on the crops, which traditionally have been the source of earning for majority of population in the region. Fishermen are worried about the waste being disposed at the sea leading to changes/ relocation of marine species to deeper seas. While these concerns are perfectly valid for the common man, there is no basis for assuming all of this will happen with a power plant starting. Norms for erecting & commissioning of such large establishments are stringent & non-compliance has severe penalty associated with it.
Power plant would require the locals to relocate from the area, which is the biggest concern that the locals currently have. Accepting such a change is not easy. Only expectations that the locals currently have is to get the right price for the land which would be forfeited & relocation into a well-planned & developed premise. Other valid concern is relating to employment opportunities in relocated area. There is nothing wrong with this expectation & there is no reason why government cannot meet this expectation. The only challenge that remains here is, the right price for selling land is perceived value. Each individual would have different expectations on this part & arriving at a consensus could take considerable time.
If these concerns are addressed by giving a rational explanation, there is no reason why people would oppose such developmental projects. NPCIL & government very recently realized the importance of engaging with locals to make them understand the project in layman terms addressing their concerns.
DAE New Chairman- R.K. Sinha said, “NPCIL's would ensure neighborhood development program before this plants starts commercial operation and neighborhood development scheme implemented as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility, Economic Development and transformation of the quality of the life of the neighboring population.”

If government works in a true sense to understand the concerns of the locals & address them there is no reason why Jaitapur cannot be commissioned. Having said this, ability to respond quickly & efficiently in case of any emergency post the power plant is commissioned is altogether a different topic & needs to be evaluated in detail considering the challenges faced during recent times in Japan when power plant had reached a critical level & shutting down the plant was a challenge. 

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