Kudankulam: In a major setback to the Centre, the residents of Tamil Nadu’s Kudankulam village have categorically rejected former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s stamp of approval for the ambitious nuclear plant being established here.
Former president Kalam visited the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu on Sunday and said the plant was totally safe and a "boon to the people".
"The third generation nuclear reactor is totally safe and is a boon to the people. The nuclear plant is built at a correct height and there is no threat of tsunami (damage)," he told the reporters.
Kalam also suggested a ten-point development programme for Kudankulam and surrounding areas in Tamil Nadu to the Centre. He recommended the construction of four-lane highways, a mega desalination plant, houses, schools, hospitals as well as cold storages for the all-round development of the area.
Although Kalam made his opinion public on the controversial project, he also stated that his visit to the plant was "purely as a technologist and scientist and not to mediate with the protesters and to verify the safety features incorporated in the nuclear power plant located on the Indian coast".
Kalam is regarded as the father of India`s missile programme and his assertion that the plant faces no threats from Tsunami and there were enough safety regulations in place raised Centre’s hope that the issue would be resolved very soon.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India has also reacted sharply to Kalam`s endorsement of the project saying, “He was a nuclear man and would only support the KNPP.”
"Former President APJ Abdul Kalam is a nuclear man and would only support and advocate for the nuclear plant at Koodankulam, which the villagers are opposing," CPI national secretary D Raja told reporters.
“Kalam was responsible for the Pokhran test when A B Vajpayee was Prime Minister,” he said when reporters sought his reaction on the ongoing agitation against the plant and the move by Kalam to sort out the issue.
"Rest is for your imagination," he said.
As far as CPI was concerned, Raja said the party has made it clear, when a delegation from Koodankulam met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that the safety of people and surroundings was paramount before commissioning of the plant.
Kalams`s visit to the project came two days after Atomic Energy Commission chairman Srikumar Banerjee and Nuclear Power Corporation of India chairman SK Jain had met Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Debendranath Sarangi and discussed ways to allay the fears of villagers.
The Centre has already set up a 15-member expert committee to clear "misconceptions" about the project.
Meanwhile, a top official of the anti-nuclear movement said they were not willing to have dialogue with Kalam on the issue at any cost.
He said residents in and around Koodankulam had expressed fears over the safety of the project in case of natural disasters, especially after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
The Rs 13,600 crore Indo-Russian joint venture will see two 1000 MW units being put up, with the first unit slated to be commissioned by this December.
With Agency Input