Solution eludes K'kulam crisis

Solution eludes K'kulam crisis

Govt losing Rs 750 crore per month

A solution to the six-month protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) continued to elude on Sunday, as the first round of talks between the new four-member committee appointed by the Tamil Nadu Government and the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) was “cordial” but inconclusive.

 “We now prefer to go back to Chennai to go over the entire situation,” Dr M R Srinivasan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, heading the state panel, along with its coordinator, Prof Iniyan of Anna University, told reporters at Tirunelveli on Sunday evening, after their talks with the “PMANE” representatives, including S P Udayakumar.

While Dr Srinivasan had earlier said that the panel would stay on in Tirunelveli and Kudankulam as long as it was necessary to help resolve the protracted tangle, their decision to return to Chennai after a two-day visit to the KNPP complex indicated that the stalemate persisted.

It is now not immediately clear whether the new panel can submit their recommendation to the Jayalalitha Government at the earliest, as Dr Srinivasan hoped to when he was in Chennai on Friday and had met the chief minister.  The new panel was set up to look into the concerns and fears of the people in the Kudankulam area in the light of the Centre’s Expert Group of scientists having already submitted two huge reports, replying to “almost all queries” raised by the Anti-KNPP Struggle Committee led by Udayakumar.

Srinivasan described Sunday’s talks with the anti-KNPP group representatives in the Tirunelveli Collector’s Office as “cordial.” He told reporters there that the group insisted on two aspects, namely, that “we meet their expert group” to discuss the safety and other issues raised and also “we (directly) meet some of the villagers” in the Kudankulam area.

Before the meeting, Udayakumar said that if a “majority of the people” in the villages around Kudankulam were in favour of the plant, then the 2000 MW Russian-assisted KNPP’s start-up activities could begin and that he would withdraw his agitation. But he wanted the four-member panel to “reflect the majority’s views” in its report to the state. The panel members had also met the district collector and the SP before the talks.

Srinivasan said the two demands placed by the anti-KNPP group “are at present outside our mandate. But we have taken note of it. We will go back to Chennai and see how we can move forward on this issue.” The panel will also take a detailed look at all documents and data provided by the KNPP authorities to them when they visited the plant.

The Russian “VVER” type reactors built at Kudankulam, incorporating the most advanced safety features, “is a third generation plus reactor,” said Srinivasan, attesting to its safety.  He detailed all the facilities they saw at the plant and how various special features, including diverting fish back into the sea without allowing them to enter the plant area, have been weaved in.

To a query that the protesters were sceptical of him leading the panel as he was known to be pro-nuclear energy, Srinivasan said during Sunday’s talks they did not express any such discomfort.  “We also respect their concerns (post-Fukushima disaster), but this may be a misplaced concern. The panel will evaluate whether their concern is serious or misplaced,” he said.

Reiterating that the KNPP plants “cannot be allowed to be lying idle beyond any length of time that is absolutely necessary,” Srinivasan said the delays already experienced in the past six months was causing a “loss of Rs 750 crore per month” to the government.