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Rioting overtakes protests in India on nuclear plants

Police officers clashed with protesters in Ratnagiri, south of Mumbai, yesterday. Indians protesting a planned nuclear power plant attacked a hospital and torched buses. Police officers clashed with protesters in Ratnagiri, south of Mumbai, yesterday. Indians protesting a planned nuclear power plant attacked a hospital and torched buses. (Reuters)
Associated Press / April 20, 2011

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NEW DELHI — A mob opposing a government plan to build a nuclear plant in the western Indian state of Maharashtra ransacked a hospital and set buses on fire yesterday during a protest strike.

Residents of Jaitapur have been protesting the proposed plant since the government’s plans became public four years ago. The opposition has grown since Japan’s nuclear crisis, with critics noting that Jaitapur is in a seismic zone.

The general strike was called after police fired to disperse protesters who attacked a police station Monday, killing one person.

Construction is to start this year on the first of six units at the proposed $10 billion plant, billed as the biggest in the world. The project by the French nuclear energy company Areva will generate 9,900 megawatts of power when completed. The first unit is expected to start producing power in 2018.

India has said additional safeguards will be taken in light of the troubles at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Fukushima plant’s cooling systems were destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami last month, and the Japanese operator has struggled to get the plant back under control.

The government has asserted that the site is safe and the plant’s location on a high cliff would save it from being hit by a tsunami. Jaitapur is about 260 miles south of Mumbai, India’s financial hub.

Protesters plan to march Saturday from a nuclear power plant near Mumbai to Jaitapur to oppose the new project.

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