Meghalaya govt constitutes all-party committee on Uranium mining

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Shillong, June 21 (UNI) The Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) government has constituted an all-party committee to discuss on Uranium mining even as the Centre is considering setting up a nuclear plant in the state.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr Donkupar Roy, who will be the Chairman of the Committee, said the all-party committee will have its first meeting in the first week of July to discuss the contentious issue of whether to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to mine uranium in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.

''The Committee will gather the views and opinions of all the members of the House,'' he told UNI here today.

Dr Roy said the committee was reconstituted to ascertain political opinions before taking a decision to grant a No Objection Certificate to UCIL.

Several NGOs, including two MPA allies - Hill State People's Democratic Party and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement - had opposed mining of Uranium fearing health and environment hazards.

Last month, the Chief Minister had asked Union Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh whether setting up of a nuclear reactor in West Khasi Hills district was possible during their meeting here.

Soon after Dr Roy's request, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited would constitute a technical study group for setting up India's 18th nuclear reactor in Meghalaya.

UCIL executive director A C Kundu, earlier, told UNI, ''The possibility of setting up the nuclear reactor in Meghalaya can be settled only after the technical study group submits a report.'' The UCIL had planned to develop open cast mining for production of 3,75,000 tonnes of uranium deposits at Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong village and a processing plant at Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district. Uranium ore deposits there have an average grade of 0.085 per cent.

However, the government was reluctant on the issue in the wake of public protest against mining of uranium fearing health hazard.

''We shall never compromise on the issue of health and environment at any cost,'' Dr Roy said.

In fact, 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.

Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) Public Awareness Division head Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra said the total amount of power generated from the 17 nuclear reactors in the country was around 4,120 MW.

''There is a shortage of 10,000 MW. We need more uranium for the nuclear reactors to meet the huge demand for power generation.

Meghalaya can contribute towards meeting this demand,'' Mr Malhotra said.

''Meghalaya could contribute 16 per cent of the country's need for uranium. The contribution can even go beyond that as the DAE is also carrying out exploration work in Garo Hills where there are uranium deposits,'' the DAE official said.

UNI RRK DPM/src1533

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