India's nuclear power to suffer sans Meghalaya's contribution

Published: Friday, May 2, 2008, 19:37 [IST]
 

Shillong, May 2 (UNI) India's nuclear power project would be adversely affected without Meghalaya's contribution in supply of Uranium from its vast reserve, Union Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh said today.

'' It's a life and death issue for India. The country's power projects will not expand without Meghalaya's contribution. Nuclear fuel is the key to the country's future power need, but most of the nuclear reactors are running short of the fuel by 50 per cent, '' Mr Ramesh said.

Mr Ramesh was in Shillong and reviewed the power situation in the Northeastern region, which had been facing acute and frequent power cut.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) had planned to develop open cast mining for production of 375,000 tonne of uranium deposits at Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong village and a processing plant at Mawthabah in West Khasi Hill district.

Uranium ore deposits there have an average grade of 0.085 per cent.

However, the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) had decided to allow mining of uranium provided that the UCIL could convince the people of the state that there will be no ill-effects of uranium mining.

'' We shall never compromise on the issue of health and environment at any cost, '' Chief Minister Donkupar Roy told UNI here after a meeting with the visiting Union Minister here.

'' The Prime Minister's Office should also make clear what special benefits the state would gain, apart from the proposed royalty Rs 20 crore annually, to the state, if uranium is allowed to be extracted, '' he said, If the UCIL could convince the NGOs and the people of the state that there will be no ill-effects of uranium mining, the government will allow mining, the Chief Minister said adding that the government was also not averse to setting up of a nuclear plant in the state itself.

'' Ours is a people's government, and we will go by the people's verdict, '' Dr Roy stated.

Earlier, Mr Ramesh said mining of uranium will be carried out only with the people's consent and will be done in an environmentally responsible manner in consultation with the local authorities.

Urging the Meghalaya government to take a positive stand on the issue, Mr Ramesh said, '' Uranium mining will be beneficial to Meghalaya, but it all depends on the state government and the people. '' '' The Department of Atomic Energy and UCIL have formulated a detailed mining plan and forwarded it to the state government and awaiting its consent, '' the Union Minister said.

Last year, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest granted environmental clearance to the UCIL to mine uranium ore at Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong area in West Khasi Hills district, based on the public hearing report, submitted by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board.

However, the Meghalaya government went slow on the issue due to opposition from both political as well as apolitical groups on the twin concerns regarding health and environment hazards.

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