Protests against India nuclear plant turn violent

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 7:21 AM
Protests against India nuclear plant turn violent

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An angry mob attacked a hospital and torched buses as protests against a proposed nuclear plant in western India turned violent on Tuesday, local media said, a day after an activist was killed in police firing.

Protests led by opposition politicians shut down a town close to the site of the 9,900 megawatt (MW) plant in Jaitapur in Maharashtra state that has seen long running anger against land acquisition intensify in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Protesters have blocked the road to the site of the proposed plant which is surrounded by several small fishing hamlets. The site is around nine hours drive south of Mumbai

Last week, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh restated the government's intentions to proceed with the construction of six reactors at the site, at a cost of $10 billion in what will be the world's largest nuclear power complex.

"We will not stop these protests or take custody of the dead body or allow his post-mortem till (state chief minister) Prithviraj Chauhan brings the Jaitapur project to a halt," CNN-IBN quoted a right-wing Shiv Sena party leader as saying.

The conflict is one of many battles across the country between villagers and industrial projects that have sharpened the debate on how Asia's third largest economy sustains its economic boom.

A wing of a hospital in the nearby Ratnagiri town was damaged by protesters, local media quoted local officials as saying.

A 30 year old protester was killed by police shooting on Monday.

Village posters in Jaitapur depict scenes of last month's devastation at Japan's Fukushima plant and warn of what could be in store for this region in the Western Ghats north of Goa.

India suffers from a peak-hour power deficit of about 12 percent that acts as a brake on an economy growing at nearly 9 percent and causes blackouts in much of the country. About 40 percent of Indians, or 500 million people, lack electricity.

India operates 20 mostly small nuclear reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW, or 3 percent of its total power capacity. It hopes to lift its nuclear capacity to 7,280 MW by next year, more than 20,000 MW by 2020 and 63,000 MW by 2032 by adding nearly 30 reactors.

(Reporting by Henry Foy; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)