Safety first on Jaitpur n-plant, says chief minister Chavan

In the backdrop of the nuclear crisis in Japan, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said on Monday that the state government will not go ahead with the Jaitapur plant unless it is fully safe.

But of course he gave no sign of cancelling a project on which the state government has set its heart, despite strong opposition from locals and environmentalists since well before the Japanese disaster.

Making it clear that he is a proponent of nuclear energy, the chief minister said, "When we run out of natural resources, what shall we do for electricity?"

He said Maharashtra requires 17,000 MW of electricity, but only 3,500 MW is currently being generated.

"There are 20 nuclear plants in India and all of them sanctioned in areas where the seismic activity is not more than 3 on the Richter scale. In Japan and the United States, nuclear plants have been set up in zones where the seismic activity recorded is in the range of 4 and 5. We have not had any nuclear accidents so far," he said.

And even as activists and villagers in Jaitapur have stepped up their agitation, the state said it was willing to discuss all aspects of the project. "No one will be displaced and agriculture will not be affected once the project becomes operational," Chavan claimed.

Meanwhile, in the Legislative Council, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar who also holds the energy portfolio made the grandiose claim that by the next assembly elections, electricity deficit would cease to be an issue in the state.