India's n-power programme to follow highest safety standards: PM

With India set to expand nuclear energy generation to 62,000 MW by 2032, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday the highest standards of safety and security would be followed to restore public faith in nuclear energy, particularly after last year's Fukushima disaster.

"We are in the process of expanding our nuclear energy generation to 62,000 MW by 2032. We are taking forward our three-stage nuclear programme based on a closed fuel cycle, with new safety features and proliferation-resistant technologies," Manmohan Singh said while addressing the plenary of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit that concluded here Tuesday.

"We are also determined that our expanded nuclear power programme will follow the highest standards of nuclear safety and security, whose synergy is essential to restore public faith in nuclear energy, especially after the tragic events at Fukushima," he added.

"We have undertaken comprehensive reviews of nuclear safety measures at our nuclear facilities. India has invited the Operational Safety Review Teams of the IAEA to assist in its own safety reviews and audit. Nuclear safety evaluations are being put in the public domain to enhance transparency and boost public confidence. We are also in the process of setting up a statutory, independent and autonomous Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority. We are strengthening emergency preparedness and response to nuclear accidents," Manmohan Singh said.

Noting that India fully shares global concerns on nuclear terrorism and clandestine proliferation, which continue to pose serious threats to international security, Manmohan Singh said: "At the same time, given India's growing energy demands, we see nuclear energy as an essential component of our energy mix."

"Strengthening nuclear security, therefore, assists India's objective of promoting a safe and secure expansion of civil nuclear energy. We must continue to harness the numerous developmental benefits that nuclear science and technology offer, especially for developing countries," the prime minister added.

His comments assume importance in the light of the agitation in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu against the 2,000 MW nuclear plant at Kudankulam, being built with Russian help, that has delayed the commissioning of the first 1,000 MW unit.

Work at the project had come to a standstill after villagers in the area, fearing for lives in case of nuclear accident, mounted an intensive protest. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa finally gave the go-ahead to the project last week.

The Indian government said March 22 it was probing if foreign money was fuelling the anti-nuclear protests in Tamil Nadu.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) V. Narayanasamy told the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, that some NGOs had been identified but said they will not be named while the investigation is on.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador Alexander M. Kadakain said Monday the agreements for the units III and IV of the Kudankulam nuclear plant were "almost ready".

Civil nuclear cooperation between India and Russia will feature at the talks between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. Medvedev will arrive Wednesday morning on a two-day visit during which he will participate in the BRICS summit of the five emerging economies, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

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