NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPPshould be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).
Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.
A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.
Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.
NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.
This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.
These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.
While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”
Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”.
Fuelling Of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant Has Begun
By People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
21 September, 2012
Idinthakarai : Even as hundreds of thousands of Tamils, Malayalis and Indian citizens from other states are protesting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) for more than a year now, and a batch of appeal petitions is being heard by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, the discredited and the CAG-disparaged Atomic Energy Regulatory Commission (AERB) has given clearance for the fuel loading in the first unit of the KKNPP. It is reliably learnt now that the Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited (NPCIL) has started the loading process.
The ruling establishment’s message is loud and clear. “We do not give a damn about the Indian citizens, their democratic and nonviolent opposition to harmful policies and projects and the very democratic heritage of our country. We will put the interests of foreign countries and their MNCs ahead of the wishes and well being of the Indian citizens.”
Hundreds of thousands of fishermen, farmers and merchants and their families from Tamil Nadu and Kerala who rely on the sea and the land for their survival and existence do not figure anywhere in the scheme of things of the Indian ruling class. The central government’s dictatorial decision to open up the retail trade and a few other key sectors of our national economy to FDI should also be seen in this light. Hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens and families that depend on the retail trade for their livelihood and sustenance do not matter in their pro-American and pro-Corporate political stance. Even as eight crore Tamils in Tamil Nadu oppose the visit of the Sri Lankan president to India, the Delhi elites are entertaining him with feast and festivities.
The leader of the DMK is, as usual, blaming the AIADMK for not initiating a dialogue with the PMANE and the struggling people in the Koodankulam issue. Although his party is part of the central government, the DMK chief has not asked the Prime Minister to do anything about the KKNPP issue. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister is keeping a deafening silence about the issue also. The Tamils are left high and dry having been abandoned by both the strong parties of Tamil Nadu in the wake of grave dangers such as nuclear power parks, poisoned sea and sea food, polluted land and crops, and radiation-affected progeny.
The PMANE Struggle Committee and the struggling people all over Tamil Nadu and the rest of India demand immediate cessation of the fuelling of the KKNPP and convert it into a pro-people and pro-Nature energy project.
Chellamma celebrated and felt the touch of waves and sun that day as the whole village took to the sea in a mighty protest against the death knell being rung loud by the KKNPP. The other day the bells of the Lourde Mary Church in Idinthakarai also rang in unison for the struggle of people to come to a fruition.
Chellamma remembered her childhood when as the only sister of 3 brothers, she would sit on the shore of the clean beach and watch the boats come and go. There were no stone pathways ( Pulimuttu) into the sea then and no yellow domes looming nearby. Growing up was not an effort. Marrying into the same village, she also cherished the memory of when illicit liquor brewing was eradicated in the village by the women, including her mother and aunts- how this helped wipe away the tears and fears of many women. The streets of the village leading to the sea was the familiar landscape through which Chellamma walks peacefully home every day.
Life was really tranquil, a bit of it still reflecting on her clear face. . Till the yellow domes started appearing as a concept. Promises of jobs came in which attracted some. There were reports of much land being take away in Koodankulam village with little or no compensation. She knew that the march in 1988 to Kanyakumari had to do with the coming up of this new development. The injuries that the bullet created in a villager stands testimony to the first questions that were raised against this. Later the name of the development got known- the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Little did she know this would ring the real death knell in her house too.
“ For us this sand is precious, said Chellamma picking up a handful of sand in the Samara Pandal.
This place , the wind and waves, the sun and heat are sacred. We will not let go of this. Is it the Government who made this? It is ours and we want to live and die here”
When asked why she disapproves of the Nuclear power plant, the usually sing song soft voice of Chellamma turns a bit hard:
“Because of what it does to the woman’s bodies. We know that this will make our wombs unfit for growing a healthy baby. Will we be able to give birth to deformed babies? Can we bring them up with our tears? Is it not better we do not give birth to such babies?”
The day passed. Chellamma came back from home refreshed and all set for another day in the pandal. Her clear face and clearer thoughts made one want to share thoughts with her.
“ My whole family is with me.My brothers are fishermen.But they give a lot of time for this. They tell me too that we should be here till the Anu ulai closes.”
She wondered about the future of the place. This was mid August 2012.
“ We do not want money. We are not orphans. As long as you have health and your spine and limbs are fine, nothing can scare you. Can we let the ocean die? Can we let this land where we were born die? Does this belong to the Government? Only we have the right to live here. We are asking only for the right to live and is it so impossible a wish?”
A month after, when in Idinthakarai again for the innovative Jala samarpan day ( Sept 12th) my eyes searched for Chellamma and her quiet wisdom. But I did not see her. Maybe she has gone home to bathe and wash. We took leave that evening from the villages, our minds heavy with the news that Sahayam, a 35 year old fisherman who was shocked out of balance by the Coast Guard Aircraft was battling with life. Whose father, husband, brother, son and friend would he be? Who all would lament his passing away at so young an age for no fault of his? The day darkened over the windmills and the red lights of the KKNPP started shimmering and flashing.
The next day brought pictures of Sahayam’s family with grieving relatives. And in its midst I saw Chellamma beating her chest and crying. Why is she there lamenting along with Sahayam’s family? Whom does one ask in this time of crisis/ Or am I mistaken. Assailed by these fears, I travelled the next day again. And then the ordeal of going to the house of the deceased. Beyond the Pillai ar temple through the charactertistic alleys of the coastal hamet, my feet refused to move fast. I was afraid to face Chellamma. I asked Melrit in whispers on the what “ What is Sahayam’s wife’s name?” Dreading to hear the familiar name and description , I was ashamed to be relieved that it was not Chellamma. But then as we drew close, I heard her crying out loud “ Oh God, why do this?”
Sitting next to her on the sand, holding her dehydrated body, I heard her whimper “
I played so much in the sea that day. Look at these children – they too were in the waters the whole day. Would I have played so and laughed loud if I had known that in a few hours I would cry like this?”
The group of women from Kerala sang their soothing prayers.
“God, little did I know that while I played and leaped , my brother, my own blood and flesh was next to me bleeding. Leaping to death”
We did hear that someone had fallen and was being rushed to the hospital. How will I forgive myself? Now I have only all of you as brothers and sisters. These young children have only you as caretakers. We are orphans”
Next to her sat the mother of Sahayam,her grief pouring gently through the wrinkled cheeks.
96 hours have passed since Sahayam’s life ebbed out of his young and healthy heart. 96 hours of incessant lament and tears for Chellamma, his wife, mother and children. 96 hours of no food and water, no bath or sleep. How many more hours to pass before they bring his lifeless form here asks many as they sit watching his picture and that of the one who lost his life near Manapad.
What a price to pay for India’s Nuclear Industry to flourish alleging that some foreign funded external agency is working with these people and spreading rumours and fears! Why then is the system cordoning them off with police and barricades on land, with coast guard ships and patrolling vehicles in the sea and old and dilapidated aircraft from the skies? If they are poor and misled folks, why fear them and control them with tear gas and rifles , with lathis and verbal abuses? Why chase an unarmed crowd caught unawares on the sand with arms and threats? Why not dialogue with them and answer their demands and requests? Sahayam would soon be an insignificant number in the statistical records- “one die as people stand in the sea protesting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant” . But for Chellamma, he would be a dear brother, his mother a son, his kids a loving father and for his wife a caring husband. What a price to pay for a Nuclear Industry that adds to India’s GDP?
Conversations with Chellamma-
Aug 15th, Sept 4,5 ,Sept 16th 2012
Recording of Chellamma’s perceptions in “Daughters of the Sea- Voices from Koodankulam /” Satish.K and Anitha.S on www. dianuke.org.
Update from PMANE
The dead body of 42 year old Sahayam Francis, who died of shock when the Indian Coastal Guards flew the plane at a very low altitude, was brought to Idinthakarai after the procession through some of the coastal villages on Monday evening. At 6.20pm, the Sahayam’s body was taken on a procession throughout the village and was kept at St Lourdes Matha Church premises. The entire village gathered at the church for the mass led by Bishop Evan Ambrose Peter, after which his body was buried. Nearly 10 parish priests from different coastal villages were present during the mass.
After the mass, people gathered there took an oath to stop commissioning of Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project.
Images from Sahayam’s funeral taken by Amirtharaj Stephen
On Sunday, September 16, at Inchivila on the Kerala-Tamilnadu border, Kerala police stopped over 200 Kerala antinuclear protesters from proceeding to Kudankulam. The protesters led by prominent writers, environmental and social activists, responded to a call for support from the fisher folk of Kudankulam.
At Parassala, Malayalam poetess Sugatha Kumari inaugurated the March organised by the Kerala Anti-Nuclear Support Group. She said the agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant should not be left to the local villagers living around the nuclear plant. She recalled how the people of Kerala stalled the nuclear plant planned in Peringom, in North Kerala.
Writer Sarah Joseph pointed out that opposition to the nuclear power plant was gaining in strength with the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission coming out against it. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the emotional and mental health of the agitating local villagers ought to be checked had forfeited its validity.
The stopped marchers led by poet Sugathakumari, writer Sarah Joseph, Vicar-General Fr. Eugene Pereira of the Thiruvananthapuram Archdiocese, former diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar, and social activists K. Ajitha, B.R.P. Bhaskar, C.R. Neelakantan, Vilayodi Venugopal, Gandhian P. Gopinathan, and N. Subramanian, staged a sit-in on the highway.
Even after the police action, 60-odd activists of the Kerala Anti-Nuclear Support Group, which organised the March, proceeded to Kudankulam by bus. However, Tamilnadu police stopped them at Anchugramam. Even so, a small group went to Nagercoil and attempted to reach Kudankulam in a private bus.
As I sit here in my home village of Idinthikara watching the hot sun light up the waves rolling onto the shores, I think of the news that has hit the world today about the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. All of you must have seen the news that the Madras High Court has given the go-ahead for the KKNPP.
When we carried the dead body of democracy and burnt it in the outskirts of our village on Aug15th, 2012, little did we realize that so soon we would witness the real death of democracy. As this last nail is being tightened on our lives, we realize how insignificant has been our voice. But this has only strengthened our vow to be together.
As I think aloud with my friends gathered here rolling beedis and contemplating our future, I wonder who can give clearance without getting the consent of all of us who live so close to the plant. For over 2 decades, we have waited for some form of consultation with us about issues and doubts that have troubled our minds. Apart from generalized assurances with statements like It is Safe and There will be no problems, we have not been given any answers. Are we not still living here and are we not expected to live here? Or do we not exist or have become transparent like the people of Hiroshima who just vanished as they walked along the streets?
As we talk this afternoon with the wind blowing over the Neem trees and bending the branches of the drumstick tree, it is our minds that are getting loaded-
We realize while cleaning the sardines and mackerels that came into our houses this morning that the Environmental Clearance given for the KKNPP is not appropriate or legal. What study can vouch for the safety of the KKNPP? Has the scientific team who did the study ever asked us about the fishes and other animals that have provided us with life for generations? Do they know the seasonality of the species, the variations in currents and tides, the changes in the seas as seasons change? Do they mention the rich wedge bank offshore that is home to many species that sustain our lives? What have they said about the abundant catch of prawns and lobsters? Who can decide that 45 degree centigrade or 35 degree centigrade is the permissible heat in which life forms will be safe? Will the water not contain substances with radiation? Is there a limit called permissible for radiation? Even children know that in the case of radiation, any dose is an overdose.
We look at our homes and the sea avidly- because we are afraid this will all become an Exclusion zone as we have seen in Fukushima and Chernobyl. We might have to go away from here gathering all our belongings. Where will we go and how will we survive? We know of no life away from the sea. Our men are so dependant on the waters of the sea. Away from her, our health will wither, we will become wasters and gamblers not to speak of searching for the wrong kind of jobs. We need to be together to live in peace and harmony. Has any impact study ever mentioned this? Will a bit of money be able to buy us all that living in the community brings ?
Yes, please answer all these questions and we will reconsider our vow to struggle till KKNPP is closed. We suggest that all the decision makers and technical support personnel connected to KKNPP stay with us in the village for a few days and explain and answer all our questions. Only then can our vow be broken…
[From conversations with Leema Navaras, Chellamma, Fransisca, Mary, Sundari, Annammal, Chinna Thankam, Tamilarasu, Ponnasakkiammal, Paramasithi, Melrit and Xavieramma and the innumerable women gathered in the Samara pandal at Idintakarai village. 11.08.2012, 15-16.08.2012, 22.08.2012, 31st Aug 2012.]
Most of the people here in our area have been praying to Our Lady of Lourdes at Idinthakarai and to the Sage Vishwamitra in one of his rarest temples in India near Koodankulam with the solemn hope that these divine forces would save them from nuclear threats to their land and the sea. They believe that from Gorbachev and Rajiv Gandhi who initiated the KKNPP to the Russian engineers and scientists who designed the Koodankulam reactors have met with misfortunes. It is only natural for people to turn to supernatural forces when their political energies are dissipated and actions discouraged by the vested interests.
Greetings! As we have completed a whole year struggling against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), we would like to initiate a fresh round of dialogue with you.
As you know, the Government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) have not shared any basic information with us about the KKNPP. Even after the Central Information Commission (CIC) has instructed them, they have not shared the Site Evaluation Report (SER) and the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) with us. They have not heard our opinions or allayed our fears and concerns about the lack of fresh water resources, the changes in the design…
Work at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project site continues to be on a fast track, and according to sources the plant will be ready to commission within eight weeks. According to an official working at Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project site, the commissioning of the plant is expected by the end of May. Scientists and officials had reviewed the progress of the project last week. “Our scientists and technicians are working over time and we will be able to complete the project in time,” said the official who wished to remain anonymous.
Meanwhile, the government crackdown on anti-nuke protesters continues. The Madurai Passport Officer has directed PMANE convener Dr SP Udayakumar to surrender his passport as a criminal case is pending against him. On Friday 30 March, officials from the intelligence bureau…
From October 2011 onwards, thousands of protesters and villagers living around the Russian-built Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the southern Tamil Nadu state, are blocking highways, staging anti-nuclear demonstrations and hunger strikes, preventing further construction work of the nuclear power plant, and demanding its closure.
Because they distrust the assurances given by the Central Government regarding safety, and fear the disasters that could arise from
environmental impact of nuclear power generation
The phrase “nuclear accident“, immediately brings to our minds the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant also known as Fukushima Dai-ichi (in Japanese dai-ichi means “number one”), after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. This disaster culminated in a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and release of radioactive materials into the environment.
The devastation at Fukushima Dai-ichi is the largest nuclear disaster since the catastrophic nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine on April 26, 1986.
The agitation in Kudankulam
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), which was initiated in 1988 by an Inter-Governmental Agreement signed on November 20, 1988 by former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, for the construction of two nuclear reactors.
The agitation against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project started as low-key protests by anti-nuclear protesters. About 20,000 residents of Kudankulam and surrounding villages marched out to show their support for the activists. More than a thousand local fishermen joined them and announced a strike in support of the protests.
The anti-nuclear protesters have stated specific reasons for opposing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). They say, “More than 1 million people live within the 30 km radius of the KKNPP which far exceeds the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s (AERB) stipulations. It is quite impossible to evacuate this many people quickly and efficiently in case of a nuclear disaster at Koodankulam“, etc.
“Fukushima has greatly helped our agitation,” said S.P. Udayakumar, activist and leader of the voluntary People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). For 20 years, Udayakumar has led PMANE on a campaign against the Koodankulam project.
“The nuclear plant is unsafe” and “the safety analysis report and the site evaluation study have not been made public. No public hearing was held. It’s an authoritarian project that has been imposed on the people,” he said.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), the top government agency to ensure safety standards, conducted a safety audit of India’s NPPs a few months back. Despite all clear certificates, anti-nuclear activists and experts have called for an audit by an independent body. They say that given the non-transparent nature of India’s state-controlled nuclear energy sector, there is no way to estimate whether safety issues will be carefully followed.
Anti-Nuclear protests and Hunger Strike
An indefinite hunger strike was started by the anti-nuclear protesters on September 11, 2012. With the hunger strike becoming a serious threat to the health of 127 participants, negotiations between the protesters and the state government of Tamilnadu began on September 15, 2012, but it soon reached a stalemate. The protests and the hunger strike ended twelve days later with J. Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, announcing that the state government would adopt a resolution against launching the nearly completed nuclear power plant. She fulfilled her promise the following day.
On Thursday, September 22, 2012, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet passed a resolution urging the Center to halt the work on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project until the fears of the local population over the safety of the plants are allayed. The 12-day fast by the anti-nuclear protesters came to an end following assurances by Ms. Jayalalitha.
Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticorin Roman Catholic Diocese, came to the protest venue at Idinthakarai on Thursday and offered fruit juice to those who were on hunger strike. He addressed the gathering and explained in detail the demands put forth during their meeting with Ms. Jayalalithaa in Chennai on the previous day. The Bishopsaid:
“We urged the Chief Minister that the State Cabinet pass a resolution demanding the permanent closure of the KKNPP and appealed to her to withdraw cases against some of the protesters during the agitation. We also appealed to her to draw a comprehensive alternative energy policy, which should make sure tapping of non-conventional energy sources at the optimum level so that the environment and people living near such power generation units do not get affected. Since the Chief Minister’s replies satisfied us to the maximum possible extent, we agreed to withdraw the ongoing indefinite fast.”
S.P. Udhayakumar, leader of PMANE gave the details of various meetings to be held in Madurai and at Samithoppu in Kanyakumari district to decide on the future course of action against nuclear programmes in the country. “We’ll even lay siege to the KKNPP in the near future to ensure its permanent closure,” he said.
Before the protesters left the venue they vowed that even though the fast had come to an end nevertheless they would intensify their struggle against the Union government in the days to come.
However, the sprawling pandal erected for the protest is yet to be dismantled. “It will be there till the Union government gives a satisfying reply to our demands. If not, the pandal will come in handy for us again,” said S.V. Antony, president, Uvari panchayat.
This agitation by the anti-nuclear protesters forced Ms. Jayalalitha to make a u-turn on her plans to add six reactors to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant which already has two reactors constructed, though not yet operating.
Ms. Jayalalitha wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging the government to put the expansion on hold until local concerns were addressed. People have been “agonized, disturbed and gripped by a fear psychosis due to the scope and magnitude of the issue in the wake of the Fukushima mishap,” she wrote.
Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, convener of Government of India’s Experts Group (EG), which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, expressed his willingness to hold discussions with the anti-nuclear protesters.
On December 2, 2011 PMANE released a press statement welcoming Dr. Muthunayagam’s willingness to hold discussions with them.
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) welcomes the statement of the Central Government’s Experts Group (EG) convener, Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, that expresses the group’s willingness to hold discussions with the scientific team of the PMANE.
We request Dr. Muthunayagam to suggest a few possible dates and venue for such a meeting as soon as possible. We would also request him to arrange a visit of the KKNPP site for all the 28 members of our scientific team.
It is also pertinent to remind him of our request for some of the basic documents on the KKNPP project such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Site Evaluation Study, Safety Analysis Report, VVER Performance Report, Detailed Project Report (DPR) and all other relevant documents for reactors 1 and 2 in order to facilitate our scientific team’s meaningful dialogue with the Central and State teams.
We would also take this opportunity to insist that the work on the two reactors be halted as demanded by the Tamil Nadu Government’s Cabinet Resolution even as we are engaged in a dialogue process.
S. P. Udayakumar, Ph.D. Coordinator People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has also been filed against the government’s civil nuclear program at the Apex Supreme Court. The PIL specifically prays for the “staying of all proposed nuclear power plants till satisfactory safety measures and cost-benefit analyses are completed by independent agencies“.
In February 2012, Mr. Udayakumar sent a legal notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for insinuating that the anti-Kudankulam protests were funded by United States and Scandinavian non-government organisations.
The pro-government scientific community
The anti-nuclear protestors themselves have enough detractors who rally and protest in favor of commissioning this nuclear power plant. Here are some views by the scientific community on this issue.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, after visiting the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant on November 6, 2011, asserted that there is no need for any panic. “The third generation nuclear reactor is totally safe and is a boon to the people,” he said.
He emphasized, “I am a scientist, I am a technologist, I support nuclear energy along with solar and wind power as it is a clean and green energy which is very much required for the country’s rapid growth now”.
He further added that the reactors located at 13.5 m height would not be effected even by a Tsunami nor would an earthquake threaten them, as Kudankulam is not within any seismic zone. The scientists have taken into account all these natural calamities before designing and fabricating the plant. While 99% of the spent fuel would be processed for reuse in the reactors, the remaining one percent would be converted and protected within a thickly walled underground concrete containment and no waste from the reactor will be dumped in the sea.
Former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission of India Dr. M.R. Srinivasan said that one should never compare the Fukushima plant with Kudankulam and added “The Fukushima plant was built on a beachfront, but the Kudankulam was constructed on a solid terrain and that too keeping all the safety aspects in mind. Also, we are not in a tsunami prone area. The plants in Kudankulam have a double containment system which can withstand high pressure. At least, Rs 14,000 crore has been spent. If we don’t operate the plant immediately, it will affect the economic stability of our country.”
In mid-November 2011, Mr. Srinivasan speaking on the ‘Current scenario of nuclear power‘ at a meeting organized by the Press Information Bureau said that since options like gas, solar and wind energies are expensive, one should never say ‘no’ to nuclear energy, “If we don’t go ahead with nuclear plans, we wont be able to supply electricity to an aspiring population of India. So it’s necessary that the 15-member committee, appointed by the Centre, discuss every point of it with the people,” he said.
A center panel constituted by the Government of India, which did a survey of the safety features in the plant, said the Kudankulam reactors are the safest and fears of the people are not based on scientific principles. The panel’s convener Dr. A.E. Muthunayagam, also added that the protesters have asked for some documents which are not related to the safety of the reactor hence he suspects the very nature of their questions.
Nuclear scientist and principal scientific adviser to the federal Government of India Rajagopala Chidambaram has said “We have learnt lessons from the Fukushima nuclear accident, particularly on the post-shutdown cooling system,” and added Fukushima nuclear accident should not deter or inhibit India from pursuing a safe civil nuclear program.
In early January 2012, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for the first time admitted that the deaths of some employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site situated about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Chennai, were caused by multiple myeloma, a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation. The DAE acknowledged that nine people, including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE did not willingly divulge the details. This information came to light in response to a Right to Information inquiry from October 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.
“While the prime minister (PM) accuses NGOs funded from abroad of trying to sabotage the ‘state-of-the-art’ Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), various studies carried out by government agencies as well as experts suggest that the site is unsafe for a nuclear project.
“The studies reveal potential threats to the nuclear reactor campus from near-shore tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and Karst (vulnerable landscape). DNA has a copy of the reports submitted by the agencies and experts,“
An expert committee appointed by the Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday submitted its report on the safety aspects of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNNP) to Chief Minister Jayalalitha, marking a crucial stage in the debate over the project. Ms. Jayalalitha in the wake of the acute power shortages in the state, which certain quarters say has been artificially created (see Press meet – Artificial Power cuts in Tamilnadu), has made a u-turn once again by favouring the commissioning of the plant. “In accordance with (today’s) cabinet decision, immediate steps will be taken (to facilitate commissioning) of the plant,” she said in a statement, breaking her silence over the issue.
S.P. Udayakumar reacted:
“Of course, we feel cheated by the chief minister J. Jayalalithaa. She has been using us. She encouraged us all these days and allowed us to carry on with the protest. I visited the chief minister’s office twice and met her and also visited the collector’s office. Even then, there were cases against me. Why didn’t the police arrest me then? She has let us down… But yes, I felt we were deceived. We were tricked. But I could a sense a pattern, a build-up in the direction of the state government’s reversal of its decision to support the protesters. When I met the chief minister for the first time she was very cordial. I had a one-on-one talk for 45 minutes. But the second time she did not even talk to me. So the state government’s decision was not entirely unexpected. It was only delayed by seven months.”
There is a general opinion in Tamilnadu that to win the Sankarankoil by-poll Ms. Jayalalitha acted as a sympathizer of the anti-nuclear protesters and now that her party (AIADMK) had won the by-poll she doesn’t need them anymore.