President Mukherjee ‘happy’ over Cabinet nod for 10 nuclear power reactors

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee today expressed happiness over the Union Cabinet nod to a proposal for setting up 10 nuclear power reactors, saying there was a need to use clean and renewable energy to meet the country’s growing electricity demand.

The president made the remarks after inaugurating the country’s first-of-its-kind microgrid power project at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) at Shibpur near here that uses solar, wind and biogas energy to produce electricity. He said he was “happy” that the Cabinet has decided to ramp up power generation by clearing a proposal to build 10 indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, each with a capacity to produce 700 MW. Mukherjee said more than 300 million people in the country still do not have access to power. “We have to provide electricity to ordinary people,” he said, adding that there is a need to emphasise on renewable energy to meet the demand.

To meet the growing demand and at the same time address concern over climate change, the country must reduce dependence on coal-based energy and emphasise on renewable forms, he said, adding nuclear is “one of the cleanest” sources of energy. The Cabinet had on Wednesday cleared the proposal to build 10 power reactors, the largest ever approval granted for such facilities in one go. The reactors will be developed by the Department of Atomic Energy.

While lauding the progress in space science made by India, he stressed that electricity and clean, arsenic-free drinking water be provided to the people, particularly those in rural areas. There cannot be too many “contradictions” for a long period of time, he said noting that India has succeded in space missions but there is still poor availability of drinking water and electricity for a large number of people.

Mukherjee also inaugurated the Centre for Water and Environmental Research, which will focus on ways to supply safe drinking water, besides irrigation. He said the entire international community is going to “face a bigger crisis in a modern form” — the crisis of water. One-sixth of the world’s population live in India, but the country has only 1/16th of the water sources, he said, adding even 70 years after Independence, a large part of the country does not receive clean, portable water.

People in drought-prone areas of central India are forced to migrate to other parts of the country, Mukherjee said. “Thus our science, our expertise have to be implemented in finding out practical solutions to (problems of) our day- to-day life,” he said. Exhorting students to focus on research, he referred to the success of Germany in establishing itself as an industrial nation through innovative ideas since the late 19th century.

Former ISRO chairman and chairperson of the IIEST Board of Governors, K Radhakrishnan, its director Ajoy Kumar Ray, and registrar Biman Bandyopadhyay were present at the programme, besides West Bengal Power Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay.

The Integrated Renewable Energy Smart Microgrid Centre at the institute utilises 600-1,000 kg of kitchen and food waste from the entire campus to produce biogas energy. It can offer a complete solution for 24×7 electricity access in regions having either no grid or weak and unreliable grid, project coordinator professor Hiranmay Saha said. The smart grid is a project of the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency. At a homoeopathy award ceremony at the Science City Auditorium here, Mukherjee highlighted the “important role” played by homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine in the country’s healthcare sector.

He said the medicinal system was becoming more popular as it was cheaper compared to allopathy, besides having no side- effects.

Homoeopathy and systems of Indian medicine such as unani and siddha are playing an important role in the country, which faces a severe shortage of quality medical practitioners, he said. The president received the first copies of two books in Bengali at an event at the Raj Bhavan. ‘Jnan, A-Jnan O Bijnan — Popper-er Jnantatta’ (knowledge, ignorance and science — Popper’s theory of knowledge) and ‘Samudra Banijjer Prekshite Sthala Banijjer, Bharat Mahasagar Anchal, 1500-1800’ (overland trade in the backdrop of oceanic trade, Indian Ocean Region) have been written by retired professors of the Calcutta University, Mahasweta Chaudhury and Sushil Chaudhury respectively.