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Japan's Fukushima crisis drives protests over world's largest nuclear plant in India

Even as Japan has decided to forgo nuclear expansion following the Fukushima crisis, India's government is insisting it will proceed with the world's largest nuclear facility despite mounting public opposition.

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A woman shouts slogans during an anti-nuclear protest in Mumbai April 26. India will tighten safety systems at a proposed $10 billion nuclear plant, potentially the world's largest, a minister said on Tuesday, after protests against the plan turned violent in recent weeks following last month's nuclear disaster in Japan. Clashes between protesters and police in April killed one person and injured at least 20 near the plant site in Jaitapur, western India, where anger over land acquisition has intensified on fears of a similar disaster.

Vivek Prakash/Reuters

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Japan's nuclear crisis has influenced a protest movement in India that is violently opposing plans to build the world's largest nuclear plant. As international agencies eye India's growing energy market, they'll also be watching how India responds to this case.

India's break-neck growth has driven an intense need for energy – and nuclear power has been accepted within the country as a suitable and clean way to deliver this. But in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, citizens in and around Jaitapur, the seismic activity-prone region where the Indian government plans to build a 9,900 mega watt power station, are upset.

Tensions came to a head in mid-April when one antinuclear demonstrator was killed during a protest, and several others were injured.

"The locals, especially after what's happened in Fukushima, are not of two minds. They simply don't want it," says Greenpeace India activist Vinuta Gopal. "They see nothing to gain from it, and everything to lose," she says. On top of that, "India certainly doesn't have [Japan's] capacity for disaster management preparedness."

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India has 20 nuclear plants in operation, providing only about 3 percent of the country's energy. Another 23 are on the way, according to a former government minister, as the country attempts to more than double its reliance on nuclear power by 2030. The Indian government and nuclear reactor builder Areva, a French company, plan to start construction of the $12 billion Jaitapur facility in 2018 or 2019, despite the heated protests.

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