MUMBAI, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- India is determined to increase its share of nuclear power, a government official said.
Speaking at the India Nuclear Energy Summit in Mumbai Tuesday, Srikanta K Panigrahi, adviser to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and director general of the Indian Institute of Sustainable Development, acknowledged "apprehensions" raised about the safety of nuclear power in the wake of Japan's March 2011 Fukushima disaster.
"There are safety challenges but India has adequate capabilities to meet those challenges," Panigrahi said, the Business Standard newspaper reports. "The country is further increasing its capabilities."
India is ranked sixth globally in terms of nuclear power after the United States, France, Japan, Russia and South Korea. It aims to increase its share of nuclear power generation capacity from 3.2 percent to 9 percent in 25 years.
India "is determined to carry out (its) nuclear capacity addition, when the whole world is rethinking," Panigrahi said.
He pointed to Germany's decision to shut down all of its nuclear reactors by 2022.
Singh said in May that the country cannot rule out nuclear power.
There are 20 nuclear power plants operating in India, with a generation capacity of 4,870 megawatts and an additional 3,160 megawatts under construction, Panigrahi said.
But proposed construction sites have faced fierce opposition from locals and activists.
"India has initiated eight missions for clean energy and nuclear energy is key to it," Panigrahi said, adding that nuclear plants require less land and investment compared with renewable energy such as wind and solar.
On the sidelines of the summit Tuesday, India's Atomic Energy Commission Chairman RK Sinha said he hopes that Parliament would soon pass the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill.
The legislation, introduced in September 2011, is aimed at establishing a legal framework to address nuclear safety issues and set up an autonomous atomic energy watchdog.
Sinha added, however, that the current regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, was "highly professional and independent."
But an Indian government auditing agency in an August report criticized the AERB for not being truly autonomous, warning that a Fukushima or Chernobyl-like disaster could occur if the Indian government doesn't address nuclear safety.
The AERB, the report had said, is responsible for supervising safety issues for the plants, yet it doesn't have power to make rules, enforce compliance or impose penalty in cases of nuclear safety oversight.
Also speaking on the sidelines of the nuclear summit, S K Malhotra, a spokesman for India's Department of Atomic Energy said the country needs "to look ahead" and that the government would press forward to meet nuclear capacity targets.