Top Indian Scientist Calls For Halt To Nuclear Power

A top scientist on the Prime Minister’s scientific advisory council on Thursday demanded a nuclear moratorium following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in quake-ravaged Japan.

This is the first direct call from within the government for a temporary stop to nuclear power production. P Balaram, director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and member of the scientific advisory council to the PM, has joined a growing group of scientists and activists seeking a review of India's nuclear strategy.

"In the light of what has happened in Japan, I believe completely transparent safety audits are required for all nuclear projects. The nuclear regulator must also be completely independent of the department of atomic energy (DAE),” Balaram told HT over the phone.

Several scientists and activists had Wednesday issued a statement seeking a review of India’s nuclear policy.

But unlike others, Balaram’s demand for a moratorium — stopping nuclear power production for the time being — is likely to embarrass the government because of the positions he holds.

Manmohan Singh and the nuclear establishment have emphatically ruled out a moratorium - though the Prime Minister Wednesday did propose greater transparency in decisions regarding nuclear plants.

India's nuclear power regulator - the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board - reports to the DAE, which is in charge of approving projects, creating a potential conflict of interest.

Though most countries have announced safety reviews of their nuclear plants following the Fukushima radiation leak, Germany is the only country to opt for a temporary moratorium. It has shut down seven aging plants.

Balaram said he agreed to be a co-signatory to a petition seeking a nuclear moratorium because many of India's proposed nuclear plants were likely to come up in populated and ecologically sensitive areas.
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