Kudankulam protesters in water; SC says won't stay fuel loading



Kudankulam protesters in water; SC says won`t stay fuel loading New Delhi: Declining to put on hold for now the loading of fuel rods in one of the two reactors of Kundankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, the Supreme Court on Thursday said it would hear September 20 the plea seeking to restrain the central government.

The apex court's decision came as hundreds of people from Tamil Nadu's Idinthakarai village, the epicentre of the protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), stood in the sea water on Thursday to protest moves to load uranium fuel in one of the two reactors.

Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra declined to pass any immediate order on a petition seeking to restrain the government from going ahead with the loading of nuclear fuel rods in the reactor of the plant.

The court said it would hear on September 20 the plea seeking to restrain the central government from doing so.

IT professional P Sundarrajan moved the apex court on Tuesday contending that the government should not go ahead with the loading of the fuel rods till 17 safety steps recommended by the expert committee are implemented.

Mentioning the matter before the bench, counsel for the petitioner Prashant Bhushan told the court that the expert committee was set up after Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan, to suggest safety steps to ward off any such incident.

Bhushan told the court that out of 17 safety steps recommended by the expert committee only six have been put in place and to implement the remaining 11, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) will require six months to two years.

Besides the central government, the petitioner had made the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, NPCIL, the power plant director and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board respondents.

The petitioner had said that the recommendations of the government's own expert task force on the critical safety features had not been implemented so far.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people from Tamil Nadu's Idinthakarai village, the epicentre of the protests against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), stood in the sea water on Thursday to give expression to their anger at moves to load uranium fuel in one of the two reactors.

Buffeted by the sea waves, the villagers say they will carry out their 'jal satyagraha', or peaceful water protest, till 6 pm.

"We will stay in the sea, we will protest against the loading of uranium fuel in one of the reactors. No one can stop us from protesting," Immaculate, one among the many agitators standing in waist-deep sea water, told a news agency.

Forming a human chain in the sea, the villagers from around the Kudankulam nuclear plant followed a similar 'jal satyagraha' in Madhya Pradesh against the Omkareshwar Dam on the Narmada.

"Any kind of satyagraha where people (willing to) take their lives is not an ordinary protest. It is a non-violent appeal to the powers that be and the power holders who must really listen to people," social activist Medha Patkar told a TV channel.

"I think even the Constitution says that people's consent is necessary... Forcible eviction in the name of progress for development or power is absolutely not understandable and it is not justifiable," she added.

Emphasising that KNPP should not be pushed, she said: "Talk to the people, hold dialogue until they are convinced of not only safety... but all issues of economical, social and politics related to nuclear powers."

On Wednesday, protestors ended their 48-hour relay fast in Idinthakarai village in Tirunelveli district to protest police use of teargas shells and batons to disperse crowds and the constabulary conducting house-to-house searches.

The over one year-long protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power project turned violent on Monday, leaving one agitator dead in police firing in Tuticorin district and several injured in a police baton charge.

India's atomic power plant operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW reactors with Russian help at Kudankulam since 2001.

Villagers under the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) banner have opposed the project for the past one year, fearing for their safety, especially since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan in March 2011.

Three days ago, Madhya Pradesh government agreed to give land as compensation and reduce the height of Omkareshwar Dam, as the protestors in Khandwa district stood in neck-deep water from August 25 to block the dam work.

IANS