Protests stall nuclear plant at Koodankulam

Safety before power, PMs envoy assures agitators

Protests stall nuclear plant at Koodankulam

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanaswamy, deputed by  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  to break the ice, on Tuesday visited protesters,  who are on an indefinite fast for the past 10 days demanding scrapping of the project over safety concerns.         

Narayanaswamy, who has  a tough task of allaying the fears of the local population to end the impasse over the Indo-Russian join venture,  will meet  Chief Minister Jayalalitha here on Wednesday.

Sending out a reassuring message to the villagers,  Narayanaswamy said the “safety of the people comes first and power production later.” He urged the agitators to call off their indefinite fast.

“I came here to understand the sentiments of the local people; I will definitely reflect these to the prime minister,” Narayanaswamy told reporters at the fast site in Indinthakarai, near the project site.

If there is a “compromise on the security of the people, the Centre will reconsider,” Narayanaswamy said when asked about the people’s demand that work be stopped at the site. Jayalalitha had  echoed the sentiments when she shot off a missive to the prime minister on Monday.

Narayanaswamy, accompanied by Chairman of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) Dr S K Jain and Additional Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy A  P  Joshi, also met State Chief Secretary D Sarangi on Tuesday morning.

The first two light water reactors of the VVER-1000 type, construction of which began in September 2001, is one of the largest nuclear plants being built by NPCIL jointly with Russia’s “Atomstroy Export” and  the nuclear export wing of “Rosatom,” the Russian state atomic energy agency.

While the over Rs 13,000-crore Koodankulam nuclear reactors have incurred huge cost and time overruns, India is a key country to which “Rosatom” exports its VVER type light water reactors. They use water as coolant and moderator.  According to NPCIL, over 99 per cent of the work has been completed at unit one, while over 94 per cent is over at the second unit.

 As several issues, right from land acquisition stage, have dogged the construction of the reactors, highly placed sources told Deccan Herald that the immediate goal was to restore normalcy in the area.

 “It may not be possible to convince the people on all their issues immediately, but everything (project activities) may remain quiet for another two months, until after the panchayat and municipal elections in Tamil Nadu are over in October,” sources said.
The idea is not to let the issue blow up into another political row between the state and the Centre. However, sources acknowledged that at this advanced  stage giving up the project altogether is not pragmatic.

“There are international commitments and agreements to comply with,” sources said, in obvious reference to the Koodankulam project taken up under an inter-governmental accord of November 1988.

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