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.
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.Skip to next paragraph
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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."
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.
In an effort to help assuage concerns, the Indian government has promised it will undertake a safety review of all plants and reimburse those displaced through land acquisition.
But, so far, locals say that hasn’t been enough. They can't seem to keep from bringing up what happened to the fishing and agriculture industry in Fukushima.
"We have been offered compensation for giving up our land, but only around 122 of 2,335 districts have accepted the money," says Jaitapur-based farmer Pravin Gavankar. "We don't want a plant, and we don't want their money."
Indeed, similar to the towns near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, Jaitapur is located about 250 miles south of India's financial capital Mumbai, on a scenic coastal stretch, and it is home to thriving agriculture and fishing industries. If a sophisticated nation like Japan can't deal with a potential nuclear catastrophe, they reason, just how would India fare?