Kolkata: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that nuclear energy will play an important role in India's quest for clean and environment-friendly energy, but stressed on meeting "highest safety standards" in its use.

"The availability of safe and affordable energy is an important factor in enabling us to realise our aspiration for growth and development," the Prime Minister said at the diamond jubilee celebration of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kolkata on Sunday.

Singh, whose endorsement of nuclear energy is significant in view of the recent disaster at Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, said he was convinced that nuclear energy would play an important role in the country's quest for clean and environmentally-friendly energy mix to fuel the development process.

"We are in the process of expanding our civil nuclear energy programme," he said, but cautioned that "even as we do so, we have to ensure that use of nuclear energy in India meets highest safety standards".

"This is a matter on which there can be no compromise," he added.

The Prime Minister asked the SINP and other similar institutes to contribute towards enhancing safety of nuclear reactors.

Asserting that doors of international cooperation in high technology areas have opened for India and will open further, he said, "Our scientists should use these unfolding opportunities to develop an international temper and outlook."

He said there should be greater international collaboration between "our research institutes and those from other countries".
Turning to the performance of scientific institutions, the Prime minister said that research institutions cannot function in isolation.

"There should be closer linkage between academia and industry and seamless transfer of knowledge from laboratory to the shop floor," he said.

The government is encouraging this process at all levels, but the private sector can also make a significant contribution, he said.

"Higher investments in research and development should be accorded high priority across the economy," he said, adding "it is a sad commentary that the number of patents filed by Indians is still very low as compared to the developed world and even some in developing world".

The Prime minister called for encouraging original thought and innovations and ensuring that innovators are rewarded.

"This will create a virtuous cycle of innovation and reward," he said.

Singh said that the SINP is an integral part of the mission of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

"I would like to compliment DAE and all its organisations and entities for the success that we have achieved in the implementation of our indigenous three-stage nuclear energy programme," he said.

Pointing out that the quality and scale of the country's scientific knowledge base determines competitiveness of its economy and pace of development, the Prime Minister said, "We are committed to create an environment that attracts young men and women towards science and research."

"We have devised policies and mechanism that draw the best minds to the scientific vocation. It is our collective duty to identify young talents, train them well and provide them an environment that is conducive to the advanced research and discovery.

"In a developing country like India, with scarce resources, there is often a debate on how much the country should be investing in basic and fundamental research," he said.

The Prime Minister said there was no option but to promote fundamental scientific research.
West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, besides Atomic Energy Commission chairman and SINP governing body member Srikumar Banerjee, were present at the event.