Still studying uranium project in Meghalaya: Minister



 Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh said on Tuesday that his department was still studying the proposed mining of uranium ore in Meghalaya.

"The issue (uranium) has come up but the department of atomic energy is still studying it because this requires a lot of planning and spade work," he told journalists here.

Pointing out that the department is exploring new areas of uranium reserves in India, he said: "Earlier on, the concentration was mostly on the conventional areas, mostly in south India. But among the new areas, it is not only Meghalaya but Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh where they see the possibility. But this takes time, it requires budget, research, and there are also security concerns."

Stating that such uranium mining) should be carried forward with caution, Jitendra Singh said: "The Centre is always cautious while moving ahead with projects relating to nuclear energy, atomic energy. They carry a lot of sensitivity along with them, a lot of security, a huge budget. It has to be thoroughly worked out."

Asked if the proposed uranium project in Meghalaya failed to materialize due to pressure from the state government, he said: "I don't think the state government has been much involved in that, but in certain stages, the state government also has to be involved."

"In fact, some of the states have the apprehension that if projects like these come up, there will be some hazards, which we are trying to brush aside. This is happening in other states also like in Maharashtra. They have the apprehension that if a new project is launched, there will be cancer all around, which usually does not happen," he added.

The proposed open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya's West Khasi Hills district has been hanging fire since 1992 after several groups expressed fears of radiation effect on human health and environmental degradation.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) had pegged Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah project in Meghalaya for Rs.1,100 crore. The ores are spread over a mountainous terrain in deposits varying from eight to 47 meters from the surface in and around Domiasiat, 135 km west from here.

The UCIL plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral a day.

In the past, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said that his government would not bulldoze the uranium mining project in the state after various civil society groups including political parties opposed on health and environmental grounds.

However, Jitendra Singh said scientific studies even in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre on those working there, found no adverse health effect.

"We need to do public awareness for this. The kind of mechanism, which is in place now... there is no obvious health hazard reported so far. No scientist himself has suffered," he said. - IANS