Villagers lay siege to Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Around 1,500 villagers on Saturday laid siege to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

Chennai: Around 1,500 villagers on Saturday laid siege to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu to demand immediate cessation of all work at the site, said an activist.

"This morning, around 10 people from West Bengal came to Kudankulam and asked for directions to the plant site. When villagers enquired about their mission, they said they were labourers hired by a contractor to carry out work inside the project site," S Sivasubramanian, coordinator of the People`s Rights Movement, an organisation fighting for the plant`s closure, told a news agency.

"This only proves our charge that the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd) is not respecting the Tamil Nadu government`s resolution to stop all activities till the fears of the locals are allayed," he added.

As the word spread around, people from Kudankulam and surrounding villagers gathered outside the KNPP site gate and sat on protest.

"Men and women are sitting on both sides of the road and traffic is not blocked. However, nobody can go inside the KNPP site. More people are coming from neighbouring villagers," R. Thadeus, an activist, told the agency.

He said more than 500 people are working inside the plant site and Saturday around 150 labourers were supplied breakfast from the NPCIL canteen.

There have been widespread protests against the two 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors that the NPCIL is building with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam, around 650 km from here.

The project cost is estimated to come up at Rs 13,171 crore.

Villagers fear for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident and the long-term impact it would have on the population.

They had earlier laid siege to the plant Oct 13 and did not allow anyone to go in. The state government had asked NPCIL officials to keep away till the situation normalised.

However, as the trial run - technically called hot run - of the first unit was over, NPCIL said it was carrying out essential maintenance work so that the equipments do not fail or the reactor and pipelines do not rust due to stagnant coolant water.

The agitation has put a stop to the project work, thereby delaying the commissioning of the first unit by several months.

In order to allay the fears of the public, the central and the state governments had formed two separate committees. The state panel includes representatives of the People`s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) that spearheads the protest.

Meanwhile, the central government appointed 15-member expert panel is likely to meet Dec 13 at Kanyakumari to discuss its responses to the issues raised by protesters and people. The central panel is expected to meet the state panel Dec 15.

"Hopefully, it would be the last meeting and the project will be allowed to progress further," a senior NPCIL official told the agency preferring anonymity.


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