‘Centre`s attitude on Koodankulam issue not right’

The Centre`s announcement of setting up of an expert group to allay fears over Koodankulam nuclear plant has not been received favourably by anti-nuclear activists who have resumed their protests against the project.

Last Updated: Oct 10, 2011, 13:45 PM IST

Chennai: The Centre`s announcement of
setting up of an expert group to allay fears over Koodankulam
nuclear plant has not been received favourably by anti-nuclear
activists who have resumed their protests against the project.

Activists with the People`s Movement against Nuclear
Energy said they plan to intensify their stir, as the Centre
is not ready to scrap the Indo-Russian project.

"Announcements like this (a high-level panel addressing
safety concerns) comes with a patronising kind of attitude.
You can`t disregard the mood of people in the locality," said
Bangalore-based Karuna Raina, an activist associated with
Greenpeace.

"You just can`t reduce everything to PR (public
relations). The locals have not understood...You are going to
explain them things which they already do not accept," Raina
said.

Raina, who recently visited Japan to measure and study
the radiation levels in areas near Fukushima nuclear plant,
found it much higher than the accepted level and contended
"nuclear energy can be very disastrous if something goes
wrong."

"When there are disasters happening across the world, why
are we so stubborn to go with it? Can the government forget
what happened in Kaiga in 2009 or Mayapuri in 2010?," she
asked.

In their defence, senior Department of Atomic Energy
official Prabhat Kumar at Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station said
the activists were either "misinformed or not informed" and it
was for the department to "explain" things to them.

Kumar said, "Safety in nuclear energy was better than any
other industry."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced that an
expert group would be set up to allay the safety concerns, but
just two days later anti KNPP activists resumed their
agitation with a three-day fast demanding scrapping of the
project.

Singh`s assurance had come after a multi-party
delegation, including anti-nuclear KNPP activists, met him in
Delhi on Friday.

The activists have taken exception to Singh`s letter to
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa seeking her cooperation
for timely implementation of the project.

A section of the academic world also thinks that the
government`s stand on this issue may not bear fruit.

Abhijit Iyer-Mithra, a research officer with Institute of
Peace and Conflict Studies, Delhi, said, "The activists
concerns may be genuine and we have to take it with due
concern."

He explained why the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is "not
very reliable".

"Members of the Atomic Energy Commission usually go on to
occupy positions in Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and there
are no checks and balances. Since AERB gets its staff from
AEC, there are usually no conflicts and they end up agreeing
on all the issues," he said.

On the concern that many activists are either
"misinformed or not informed" on nuclear energy, Iyer-Mithra
said, "There could be some who don`t know much about nuclear
issues. But you can`t paint the whole lobby with that and not
take them seriously. There are some fundamental and real
issues."

The government however hopes things will fall in place
once the high level panel is set up.

Minister of State in Prime Minister`s Office, V
Narayanasamy told PTI over phone from Delhi that the meeting
is a "good step forward."

"Once the panel is set, they will explain the safety
concerns to the people there," he said.

Asked about the number of people and who would constitute
the high-level panel, he said "The Prime Minister will
announce it shortly. It will have experts from the nuclear
world who can explain and address all safety issues which the
local people are concerned with."

PTI