NEW DELHI—In a speech here today, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exhorted his government to strive for "accountability and transparency in the functioning of our nuclear power plants." The remarks have perplexed some atomic officials and scientists.
A few days after the nuclear crisis began to unfold at the Fukushima power station in Japan, Singh, who also serves as minister in charge for atomic energy, ordered a safety review of all 20 nuclear power plants and a half dozen research reactors owned and operated by the government. Known as a strong backer of India's nuclear establishment, Singh in 2008 staked the future of his government on passage of the landmark Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement, which allows India, once ostracized over its nuclear weapons program, to buy civilian nuclear technology.
In his speech, Singh declared that "the people of India have to be convinced about the safety and security of our own nuclear power plants. We should bring greater openness and transparency in the decision-making processes relating to our nuclear energy program." He promised to strengthen the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board "and make it a truly autonomous and independent regulatory authority."
Some nuclear backers fret that Singh's support for their industry may be wavering. "This is a very disturbing and highly damaging statement," one top nuclear scientist told ScienceInsider. Another added that "only God can save this country if the captain starts to abandon the ship in a time of crisis."