Guwahati, May 03(UNI) Meghalaya wants a nuclear power plant either in that state or any part of the Northeast as a pre-condition for uranium mining provided there was no health or environment hazard because of the proposed mining.
This was informed today by Union Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh.
He had a meeting with Meghalaya Chief Minister Donkupar Roy and his deputy Hoping Stone Lyngdoh in this regard.
Stating that expansion of India's nuclear programme depended heavily on the proven uranium deposit in Meghalaya, Mr Ramesh said the Department of Atomic Energy of Government of India and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) werer now faced with a huge challenge to convince the people of Meghalaya and its government to allow extraction of the radio active mineral in their state.
''Uranium mining in Meghalaya is a matter of life and death for India's nuclear programme. However, uranium would be mined only when we have the consent of local people and also approval of the state government,'' Mr Ramesh told newsmen here.
According to Mr Ramesh, nuclear fuel is the key to the country's future power need as most of the nuclear reactors in the country were now running at 50 per cent of the total capacity because of shortage of Uranium, the basic reason that had led to the India-US nuclear deal.
Regarding Meghalaya government's demand for setting up of a nuclear power plant in that state or Northeast, Mr Ramesh informed that it was conveyed to the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission who had in response agreed to set up an expert committee carry out techno-economic feasibility study on setting up of such a project in the NE.
He informed that the DAE would prepare a White Paper by May 31 on proposed uranium mining in Meghalaya detailing about safeguards to be provided to local people in response to apprehensions being aired about health and environmental hazards, benefits to be derived by the local people and the state government.
''The White Paper will be given to Meghalaya government for discussion in the state Assembly as well as to be thrown open for public debate,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the DAE as part of its public outreach campaign will bring a team of doctors and scientists from Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai to Meghalaya to interact with the people there to address their fear about cancer being caused by Uranium mining.
UNI MT PL KLC1534