NEW DELHI, March 22, 2011 (AFP) - India's atomic energy regulator has said that driving or walking on the notoriously dangerous streets of New Delhi is more of a risk than the country's 20 nuclear reactors.
Srikumar Banerjee, chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, sought to play down fears about atomic power caused by Japan's troubles during an interview with NDTV television late on Monday.
"I can only say that you should worry less for nuclear energy than walking on the streets or driving in Delhi," he said, in one of several comments suggesting the danger of the Japanese accident had been exaggerated.
The radioactivity released from Japan's stricken Fukushima power plant is "very minor," he said, adding that "the moment it gets dispersed into the environment it becomes absolutely insignificant".
As a precaution, however, all of India's reactors would now be subjected to greater stress-testing to make sure they are capable of withstanding shocks from earthquakes, he said.
Energy-hungry India is one of the world's biggest markets for nuclear technology. It plans to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63,000 megawatts by 2032, from the current level of just 4,780 megawatts.
Banerjee's reference to driving in Delhi reflects the extremely high mortality rate on Indian roads.
About 125,000 people or about 350 a day, died on India's road network in 2009, the last year for which complete data are available.