Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said that nuclear energy was a "dependable and clean" option for satisfying the growing energy needs of the country as it looks to achieve rapid economic development.
Addressing a public gathering after laying the foundation stone for the 2,800 megawatt nuclear power plant in Gorakhpur village in Fatehabad district of Haryana, Singh said, "A long way has to be covered to meet our growing power demands. Nuclear power is a dependable and clean option.
"India is among the very few nations which have developed technology to install nuclear power plants." The Rs 23,502 crore project under the Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojna will have four units, each of 700MW. In the first phase, 1400MW units will be completed at a cost of Rs 21,000 crore by 2020-21, he said.
Singh, who made his second visit to Haryana in 10 days, congratulated the people of Haryana and the state government for their support for the project of national importance, the first-of-its-kind in this region.
In his address, Singh stressed on the need for economic progress to ensure better living standards and emphasised the importance of creating job opportunities for the youth.
Haryana Governor Jagannath Pahadia, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, too, were present on the occasion along with Union Ministers V Narayanasamy and Kumari Sejla and Sirsa MP, Ashok Tanwar.
Singh pointed out that the pace of economic development, as had taken place under the UPA regime, could only be maintained if the government increased energy supplies to industries, farmers and the common households.
"We will have to tap all available resources like hydro, thermal, gas, wind, solar and nuclear energy. At the same time, we will have to ensure that pollution is kept under check," he said.
Singh said that power generation had increased manifold in the last 10 years, and added that the country now has an installed capacity of 4800MW of nuclear power.
The aim was to generate more than 27,000MW of nuclear power in the next 10 years, he said.
Talking about the Gorakhpur plant, Singh said that half the power produced by it would be allocated to Haryana to enable it to meet the energy demands of the rural and industrial sectors.
"The people of this region should get the maximum benefit (from the project)... Compensation has been paid by government. An annual royalty will also be given for the next 33 years," he said, touching upon the needs of the local people who might have been affected by the project.
As part of the first phase of the project, 8,000 to 10,000 people are expected to get employment. Besides, new avenues of employment will also be generated and priority for these would be given to locals, he said.
A hospital and deer and herbal parks are also to come up in Gorakhpur, which is also to benefit from better road connectivity and skill development programmes.
Singh congratulated the officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation and and Atomic Energy Department for the project.
A total of 1,503 acres of land was acquired for the plant, out of which the major share of 1,313 acres belongs to Gorakhpur village. The entire land was acquired from 847 families with approximately Rs 450 crore having been paid in compensation, an official spokesman said.
The project, in the pipeline since 2009, had faced resistance from locals and some environmental activists.
Principal opposition party INLD, too, had raised safety concerns over the project.
Former Army chief Gen (retd) VK Singh, AAP leader Prashant Bhushan and yoga guru Ramdev were among those who had visited Fatehabad to lend support to the anti-nuclear plant campaign.
But the landowners eventually accepted the compensation package offered for the land acquisition.
Singh said that the technology which is to be used for the Gorakhpur project had been carefully tested.
The reactors which are set up in Haryana would also be installed at Kakrapar in Gujarat and Rawatbhata in Rajasthan, he added.
In his address, the Haryana CM thanked the Prime Minister and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi for the prestigious gift on the occasion of Lohri and Makar Sakaranti.
"The Gorakhpur nuclear power project would prove to be a milestone, not only for Haryana, but for the entire country," Hooda said.
Describing power as the wheel of development, Hooda said that when he assumed office in 2005, the total power generation capacity in Haryana was 1587MW, which had increased to more than 5300MW at present.
Hooda added that the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) was going to spend Rs 100 crore on various developmental projects in the area, in which the state government would also contribute.
The Prime Minister had 10 days back visited Jhajjar in Haryana to lay the foundation stones for two key projects — the National Cancer Institute and the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership.