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Alang Faces the Choice Between the Devil & the Deep Sea
Politics could stonewall proposed N-Plant in Mithi Virdi
GANDHINAGAR: The BJP's opposition to the civil nuclear liability bill in Parliament, if continued for a longer period, may tell adversely on the Union government's decision to set up a 6,000 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant near Mithi Virdi on southern Saurashtra coast. Already bogged in political controversy in Delhi, its impact can be heard in Gujarat.
Even as Sachivalaya officials said, the Union Cabinet has sent a letter, giving its nod for the proposed N-plant, Union minister of state for energy Bharatsinh Solanki told TOI, "Opposition to the nuclear liability will delay setting up the plant near Mithi Virdi as it will only complicate the procedure for obtaining nuclear fuel."
While agreeing that the Gujarat government received a formal letter from the Prime Minister's office regarding Cabinet clearance to the N-plant about one-and-a-half month back, state energy minister Saurabh Patel told TOI, "Everything is at initial stage. The process is going to be long drawn. There is no clarity on fuel tie-up, cost of fuel and the role the state government should play in N-plant project."
The BJP at Centre is opposed to the compensation mechanism with a cap of Rs 500 crore and has had several rounds of talks with those involved in pushing for the bill, including the PM's national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, though without result.
Patel said, "We believe, higher compensation and better safety mechanism will be useful for those who surround the area where the N-plant is expected to be set up."
Soon after the Cabinet nod on N-plant, on the basis of an application from the National Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), the state revenue department has begun the process of earmarking 1,200 acres for the N-plant. "NPCIL officials have visited the site and taken with them copies of revenue records of the site in order to acquire the land," Bhavnagar MLA and Opposition leader Shaktisinh Gohil informed TOI.
Meanwhile, official sources said, the N-plant will mean uprooting five small villages in the area as also tens of ship-breaking units operating in Sosiya in the neighbourhood of Alang ship breaking yard. "Once a formal decision to start construction of N-plant is taken, their rehabilitation will also be taken up," a senior official said.
India's largest nuclear power plant to come up near Alang?
Gandhinagar: In what is certain to give a phenomenal boost to Gujarat's overall development, the prime minister's office (PMO) is learnt to have approved Gujarat's Mithivirdi (Chhaya) site in Bhavnagar district for an 8,000 MW nuclear power plant.
The 1,000 acre site, along with another in Andhra Pradesh, has been identified for the setting up of nuclear power plants. These power plants will use nuclear reactors to be purchased from the United States under the nuclear deal signed by the UPA government last year.
The main Opposition in the last Lok Sabha, the BJP, may have opposed the N-deal for political reasons, but the government of Narendra Modi, the saffron party's poster boy, is unlikely to desist from reaping its benefits.
As with the Nano project, Gujarat has beaten several other states in the race to bag this prestigious project. What makes it especially exciting is that 40% of the power generated by this plant is likely to be given to Gujarat.
State energy minister Saurabh Patel told DNA on Wednesday that full details are awaited. But DNA has learnt from highly placed sources that the PMO has communicated its approval for the Mithivirdi site to the state government.
"An informal approval for the Mithivirdi site in Bhavnagar, adjoining the ship-breaking yard at Alang, has been received from the PMO, but details are still awaited. As per the proposal submitted by us, it will be an 8,000 MW plant. We are also hoping that the Centre will accept our proposal that 40% of the power generated by the plant be given to Gujarat," the sources said.
Put in perspective, the scale of this project is massive. India's total power generation capacity from 17 operational nuclear power plants is currently just 4,120 MW.
The Mithivirdi plant may be set up on 1,000 acres of land on the coast, though details are yet to be finalised. "It is premature to estimate the total investment required, but it will run into several hundred crores," sources said.
Mithivirdi was selected by the Site Location Committee appointed by the central government's Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), headed by its CMD SK Jain. Six sites, including one in Ahmedabad, Junagadh and some others in Bhavnagar itself, were identified and short-listed by the committee.
Mithivirdi's proximity to the sea, and distance from a wildlife sanctuary and dense human habitat, are believed to have worked in its favour. In May, the NPCIL signed an MoU with Westinghouse Electric Company, a US company, to discuss the technical aspects of setting up multiple AP1000 reactors in India.