New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the government was taking seriously the concern among people about the safety of nuclear energy as reflected in the protests in Tamil Nadu over the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
"The protests in Kudankulam reflect the concern among people about the safety of nuclear energy. People are also worried that such plants should not affect their livelihood and environment," Manmohan Singh told a group of Russian journalists here, ahead of his Moscow trip.
"The government takes these concerns seriously. We have set up an independent group of experts to respond to all the legitimate and genuine concerns and fears of the local people," he said.
Manmohan Singh will be in Moscow till Saturday for a summit meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The two nations are expected to sign key agreements in the defence, health and science and technology fields, apart from discussions on key deals in nuclear energy and hydrocarbons sectors.
The prime minister will discuss with Medvedev a deal on setting up units III and IV of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu, where villagers are protesting for the last 10 months against the first two units following the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant disaster early 2011.
Manmohan Singh said peoples` support was "essential" if India developed nuclear energy in the country.
"I know that the Russian leadership also has the same priority and has taken several initiatives, including in the international arena, which we welcome."
He expressed hope that India-Russia cooperation in the nuclear field would continue and promised that India would fulfill its commitments.
"India has always regarded Russia as partner who was with us in times of difficulty and even when there were restrictions on nuclear commerce with India. I wish to thank all the Russian experts who are working with us in the Kudankulam project."
Experts to meet TN committee
The committees set up by Central and Tamil Nadu governments over the Kudankulam nuclear power plant issue would meet for the third time in Tirunelveli Thursday to discuss the concerns of locals protesting against the Indo-Russian project.
"We are meeting them tomorrow for the third time. In our estimation, we have answers to all their possible concerns. We are prepared for any of their new queries as well. Let`s see what they ask for," AE Muthunayagam, head of the 15-member Central Expert Committee, said ahead of the meeting.
The previous two meetings of the committees on November 7 and 18 had failed to break the impasse as representatives of the agitators wanted more information and documents relating to their safety concerns.
The members of the central committee have been holding discussions since yesterday in Kanyakumari.
W Stephen Aruldoss Kanthaiah, a member of the committee, told reporters in Kanyakumari today that the team members had prepared a report and were ready to answer any additional queries during the meeting to be held in the presence of Tirunelveli District Collector.
The central committee was set up to allay fears of the locals over the nuclear power plant after the prolonged protests delayed the commissioning of the reactor scheduled for this month to March next year. Only essential maintenance operations were underway at the plant.
Asserting that the nuclear fuel was yet to be loaded in the reactor and testing had been completed with dummy fuel rods, Kanthaiah said only after obtaining necessary permission from concerned authorities uranium would be loaded.
Referring to closure of atomic power stations in some foreign countries, including Germany, he said developed countries had sufficient sources to generate power while it was not the case with developing nations who need atomic power for growth.