Talks to end KNPP logjam make no headway

The deadlock over the controversial Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project continued.

Last Updated: Nov 18, 2011, 18:03 PM IST

Tirunelveli (TN): The deadlock over the
controversial Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project continued
on Friday with talks between the Centre`s expert committee and the
Tamil Nadu government as also the protestors failing to make
any headway.

On a three-day visit to the plant as part of efforts to
allay people`s fears over safety aspects, the 15-member
central panel met a six-member committee constituted by the
state government on the Koodankulam issue here.
"Our mandate is to talk to the forum (six-member state
panel) provided by the Tamil Nadu government. We cannot go on
talking to the people in Tirunelveli district," K Balu, a
central committee member told reporters after the meeting,
also attended by representatives from the protestors.

He said the project has "much more than what is necessary
to ensure safety as far as environment and people are
concerned."

Balu said the committee sought to clarify questions raised
by the protestors, who have been on a month long fast in the
second phase of their agitation, demanding scrapping of the
Indo-Russian venture on grounds of safety.

However, unhappy over the outcome of the talks, M
Pushparayan, one of the leaders spearheading the stir, claimed
the central committee was neither interested in removing
doubts raised by them at the last meeting nor had the central
panel given the documents the protestors asked for.

"They gave only a 38-page report instead of giving the
documents we asked. The report did not have any documentary
evidence and so we will continue our protests and the two-hour
talks ended in a failure," he said.

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil
Nadu`s Tirunelveli district, which is close to achieving
criticality, has been facing road blocks due to agitation with
local activists stopping the employees from entering the
plant.

The Rs 13,600-crore project, whose first unit (1000 MWe)
was scheduled to be commissioned in December, has run into
trouble following the protests from locals.

"Any fear(on security) is not based on scientific facts,"
said Dr AE Muthunayagam, the convenor of the expert
committee.
Muthunayagam, an expert in environmental science and
oceanography, said the group had even planned presentations on
six issues such as safety, radiation, cancer threat,possibilty
of incidents like Fukushima here, waste disposal and trends of
nuclear energy.

"Our friends (protestors) say they are not satisfied. We
have not come here to listen to your lecture," he said.

Asked whether the meeting ended abruptly, Muthunayagam
said, "They took our report and went away."

He said the committee would continue giving answers and
clarifying issues and bring facts to the people. "We will see
to it that some solution is reached," he said

Making it clear there was no need for the committee to
submit a report to the central government, Balu said the panel
was set up to allay the fears of the locals and would talk to
the people, through their representatives.

Renowned oncologist and a member of the panel, V Shantha
said, "There is a lot of misconception on radiation. Lots of
studies have been done even in Kalpakkam and other areas.
There is no need for any fear or panic about radiation."

However, Pushparayan said, "The expert committee was
insensitive. They undermined public fear."

With the stand-off between those in charge of running the
plant and villagers who live nearby showing no signs of
abating, there are concerns over the maintenance required for
expensive equipment.
Fishermen have also expressed concern over the plant
contaminating the sea.

The atomic plant was expected to provide relief from
from frequent power cuts in the state which have also hampered
developmental activities.

Seeking to bring her on board, Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh has assured Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa
that no safety features will be compromised at the plant. He
has also urged her to support the project.

PTI