Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said that nuclear power was an essential component of India's energy mix and he will ensure that the safety and livelihoods of people are not jeopardised in its pursuit.
"We will ensure that the safety and livelihoods of people are not jeopardised in our pursuit of nuclear power," Dr Singh said at a function to confer lifetime achievement awards on four nuclear scientists.
Noting that the 2011 Fukushima incident had raised "justifiable" concerns on atomic energy, Singh said, "Even as we implement our power programme, we will continue to ensure that nuclear power remains wholly safe."
He said Parliament was examining a Bill to set up a new Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority.
The prime minister said India has enhanced its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the first Operational Safety Review Team recently visited the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station.
"As we pursue our national growth objectives to meet the rising aspirations of our people, the supply of affordable clean energy will be one of our foremost national challenges and a key priority for our government. Nuclear energy will remain an essential and increasingly important element of our energy mix," he said.
Dr Singh said India was in the process of expanding its indigenous nuclear power programme.
On the much-delayed Kudankulam nuclear power project, he said: "We will reach a new milestone soon, as the first nuclear reactor with Russian collaboration at Kudankulam starts operating, with the second reactor to follow later in the current year."
The prime minister said the Department of Atomic Energy was a vital part of the national efforts that led to adjustment of the global nuclear order and reintegration of India into international nuclear commerce for peaceful purposes.
"Despite decades of facing international technology denial regimes, our scientists and technologists have worked with unfailing commitment, dedication and skill. It is to their credit that India has now mastered advanced technologies and developed indigenous capabilities across the entire nuclear fuel cycle," he said.
Dr Singh said their efforts have not only given the country deterrence capabilities and nuclear energy, but also national capacity to apply the benefits of nuclear science to areas such as agriculture and healthcare.
"I am pleased that DAE is also closely involved in fostering international science and technology cooperation, including through its participation in mega-science projects such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor and the Large Hadron Collider," he said.
Dr Singh said he was confident that DAE would continue to make valuable contributions to further developing India's capabilities in nuclear energy and related fields.
"We should ensure that we continue to attract the best scientific minds among our younger generations to these fields," he said.