Jaitapur plant is very much on, says Jairam Ramesh, Prithviraj Chawan

The prime minister Manmohan Singh put down his foot firmly in favor of the Jaitapur Nuclear Project today, four days after environment minister Jairam Ramesh called for a ‘pause’ on the project.

After talks with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chawan, V Narayanasamy, the junior minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s portfolio (which include Nuclear Energy,) said the government will push ahead with the project.

“A generous new compensation package has been worked out and will be announced soon,” he said after a closed door meeting of the PM, Jairam Ramesh, Chawan and officials from the Department of Atomic Energy.

Jairam Ramesh, who is learnt to have been in favor of a slight pause or ‘moratorium’ on the project till safety issues are studied again, was forced to come to terms with the insistence of the Department of Atomic Energy that the project cannot be stopped.

“The word ‘pause’ can be interpreted in different ways,” Ramesh said, playing down suggestions of a climb-down. “The pause was primarily meant to assuage concerns over safety.. and the decision that each reactor plant will have a stand-alone safety system is an important one,” he said.

“Your efforts to find a divergence [in opinion], heroic as it is, is misplaced,” Jairam told a reporter after repeated questions on his ‘climb down’ over the issue. Jairam Ramesh, however, maintained that the fears of the population are not unrealistic, comparing it to the Singur and POSCO agitations.

He, however, insisted that a way around it can be found through proper communication.

The government will also set up a new independent nuclear regulator in the place of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board or AERB.

The project will be reviewed after the first of the half of a dozen reactors are completed by the French company AREVA.

Interestingly, the government will focus most of its energies on winning over the farmers who will lose their land to the project. The increased compensation is aimed at luring them to accept the government package, which, as of now, none of them have taken.