The Central panel’s three-day visit to Tamil Nadu’s coastal district of Tirunelveli failed to allay fears among people regarding the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.
Talks held on Friday between the panel, representatives of protesters and a six-member state government team failed to make headway in resolving the impasse.
The panel, formed by the Department of Atomic Energy on October 20, comprises academicians, scientists and engineers specialising in environmental science, radiation safety, oncology, oceanography and fisheries. It was created to explain scientific aspects of the project and answer doubts raised by protesters regarding the plant.
Protesters say the two-hour discussion held at the district collectorate was a total failure. “We had raised many doubts about the environmental aspects and safety of the plant. But the panel failed to give us satisfactory answers,” says M Pushparayan, one of the leaders of the ongoing agitation against the plant.
The protesters had asked for Site Evaluation Study, Safety Analysis Reports and details of the project agreement signed with Russia. “We had also demanded a whitepaper on halting construction work at the site,” says Pushparayan. “But they gave us only a 38-page report which contained nothing that we wanted to know,” he says.
The unilateral way in which the panel was formed itself met with criticism. The state government had asked for inclusion of persons it named in the panel besides representatives of civil society groups. This did not happen. The state government had also passed a resolution to stop all construction work at the site till people’s fears are allayed. Residents of and those living near Tirunelveli fear the plant will have an impact on their health, safety and livelihood.
The panel, however, has expressed satisfaction over the safety measures taken by the plant. “As far as people and environment were concerned the plant has much more than is necessary to ensure safety,” says K Balu, nuclear waste management expert and a member of the Central panel.
Speaking to mediapersons regarding people’s fears he said, “Our mandate is to talk to the six-member state committee and representatives of people. We cannot go around talking to people in Tirunelveli”.
The state government has not given its reactions regarding the talks yet. The protesters, on the other hand, have decided to continue their third round of agitation.
The first unit (1,000 MW) of the Rs 13,171 crore project is scheduled to be commissioned in December.
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