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India won't halt nuclear plant despite protests

Indian villagers are blocked by police personnel during a protest near the site of a nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra on December 4, 2010. (AFP/Getty Images)

India's government refused to cave to demands to halt work on nuclear power plants at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, but said it would make the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, an independent statutory body, reports the Indian Express.

By freeing the AERB from the Atomic Energy Commission -- which is responsible for developing nuclear power assets -- the government aims to eliminate a conflict of interest believed to have hamstrung the regulator in the past.

India plans to build six nuclear reactors — two in the first phase — in Jaitapur in association with French nuclear company Areva. The first phase is planned to go operational in 2019.

As detailed in these pages earlier this year, the Jaitapur project has been facing protests from activists and local communities who are opposed to it due to safety concerns, worries about the facility's impact on the local environment, and issues related to the acquisition of land for the project.

Opposition to the project has gathered strength following the nuclear crisis at Fukushima.