Concern over India's coastal nuclear plans
Japan's struggle to avert a nuclear disaster has led to new calls for a planned huge atomic power plant on the western coast of India to be scrapped.
The proposed Jaitapur station in the state of Maharashtra would be one of the biggest nuclear plants in the world with a total of six reactors providing 9,600 megawatts of power.
Nuclear stations are often built by the sea due to their water consumption, and India -- which aims to supply 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear sources by 2050 -- already has several other nuclear facilities on the coast.
But the Jaitapur programme has attracted large protests from locals and environmentalists who are concerned about the loss of land, the danger of radiation and destruction in the ecologically-sensitive Western Ghats region.
"Japan is an eye opener for us and for the Indian government," Rajeev Betne from the Toxic Links environmental lobby group told AFP. "Local residents in Jaitapur are obviously scared after seeing what's happened in Japan."
A series of protests gathering more than 10,000 people were held at the Jaitapur site last year, with fishermen, farmers and their families refusing to be re-located and complaining about the risk of nuclear pollution.
Anti-nuclear environmental group Greenpeace said Jaitapur, where construction is due to begin in 2013, now had to be scrapped.
"Japan just goes to show that we cannot foresee the worst case scenario and when the technology is inherently dangerous, like nuclear technology, the government needs to be aware of the repercussions," Karuna Raina said.
Indian nuclear experts have moved quickly to issue assurances that the plant would not be vulnerable to an earthquake or tsunami.
"Seismic activity in Japan and India are two different things," former chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar said on Monday. "I won't say a tsunami will not occur, but its intensity will not be that high.
"Since Jaitapur is on a plateau, the possibility of a tsunami there is low. Though it's along the seashore, it's at a height (of 25 metres, 80 feet)."
Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, emphasised that the plant was crucial to India's future, saying "ours is a very power-hungry country... it is essential for us to have further electricity generation".
India has pushed ahead with its nuclear energy plans since 2008 when then president George W. Bush signed into law a nuclear deal with New Delhi that ended a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with India.
Since then, France, Russia and private US and Japanese firms have been locked in fierce competition to sell new reactors to India.
French company Areva has signed a 9.3-billion-dollar framework deal to supply the first two of Jaitapur's third-generation pressurised water reactors, with the plant scheduled to begin producing power in 2018.
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