In a bid to prevent Koodankulam-like protests against nuclear power plants,the Department of Atomic Energy is pushing the government to ensure uninterrupted power supply at cheaper rates to people living near the sites.
DAE secretary Srikumar Banerjee told The Indian Express that local people needed to be given preferential treatment and special benefits so that they become stakeholders in the nuclear power plant.
Most people in India,including many of those who have joined protests,are reasonably convinced about the safety of nuclear power plants. Our safety record is proven demonstrably. But there is certainly a feeling in local populations that they do not benefit from these plants. I think this might be a genuine concern and we must address this, Banerjee said.
I think it is reasonable to ensure that people living in areas around a nuclear power plant are given power at subsidised rates or they are assured of uninterrupted power supply,or some similar benefit that will make them stakeholders in the project.
We have initiated discussions in this regard with the central electricity authority and other government departments. It will take some time before any such thing is decided,but I would certainly like to see this happen, Banerjee said.
Banerjees remarks came the day after work resumed at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu,where an agitation had halted the development of two 1,000-MW nuclear reactors being built with Russian help. One reactor was to start producing electricity in December 2011; the other was to follow six months later.
With that schedule upset,the DAE is looking at a time-frame of another four months to start the first reactor,with the second following six months later. We are looking at the possibility of getting both the units started before the end of this year, Banerjee said.
The nuclear establishment,Banerjee said,needed to do more than mere corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities in areas around its plants.
The CSR work is there and is being done. But we need to go beyond these,not just at Koodankulam but at the other sites as well. We can get into providing healthcare services or education to the local populations. One of our sites has established a desalination plant for water treatment. We can also set up food preservation facilities or agriculture cooperatives. Some of this work is already being done,but we need to multiply these efforts. The bottomline is that there has to be greater harmony between the nuclear establishment and the people in the areas where it works, Banerjee said.