Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil (R) along with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (L),the chief guest at India's Republic Day, and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh arrive for the 62nd Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India on Wednesday, January 26,2011. UPI/Raj Patidar | License Photo
NEW DELHI, June 1 (UPI) -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underlined the country's commitment to nuclear power in tandem with renewable energy sources.
"One thing which is quite clear is that if India is to meet its emission targets, then nuclear energy along with renewable sources of energy is a combination which we need,'' Singh said at a news conference Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to India.
His comments come a day after Germany announced it would close all of its 17 nuclear power plants over the next 11 years. Germany obtains nearly one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear power.
"We will make every effort to ensure that safety norms in generation and utilization of nuclear power are world class but we must have the option to make use of nuclear energy, together with the heavy reliance on coal which is inevitable for quite some time, to come in our country,'' he added.
Noting that nuclear energy accounts for about 3 percent of the total energy generated in India, representing a capacity of less than 5,000 megawatts, Singh said the government aims to raise that amount to 20,000 megawatts by 2020.
"Thereafter, there are some projections but no firm decisions have been taken,'' he said.
Merkel said Germany would help India in areas related to nuclear safety and pledged support for the development of the renewable energy sector in India, yet she stressed that "it is up to each and every country to decide what energy mix it wishes to use to supply energy."
Merkel added, "Germany will champion nuclear safety standards and help India achieve a broad energy base. It's a policy we can support."
India's energy consumption continues to grow about 6 percent annually, fueled mostly by a growing population and a robust economy, the third largest in Asia. Yet nearly 40 percent of households have no access to electricity.
India gets about 3 percent of its electricity from 20 relatively small nuclear reactors operating in the country. But to meet India's escalating energy needs, another five reactors are being built, with 39 more planned.
Singh on Wednesday addressed India's disaster preparedness during a meeting with National Disaster Management officials, asking them to apply the word's' best safety measures to the country's nuclear plants, Press Trust of India reports.
Initiatives under consideration include installing devices for monitoring and measuring radiation levels in 1,000 police stations in 35 cities with a population of more than 1 million.