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Koodankulam N-plant: Centre's attitude not right, say activists

Last updated on: October 10, 2011 14:30 IST

The Centre's announcement of setting up of an expert group to allay fears over Koodankulam nuclear plant has not been received favourably by anti-nuclear activists who have resumed their protests against the project.

Activists with the People's Movement against Nuclear Energy said they plan to intensify their stir, as the Centre is not ready to scrap the Indo-Russian project.

"Announcements like this (a high-level panel addressing safety concerns) comes with a patronising kind of attitude. You can't disregard the mood of people in the locality," said Bangalore-based Karuna Raina, an activist associated with Greenpeace.

"You just can't reduce everything to PR (public relations). The locals have not understood...You are going to explain them things which they already do not accept," Raina said.

Raina, who recently visited Japan to measure and study the radiation levels in areas near Fukushima nuclear plant, found it much higher than the accepted level and contended "nuclear energy can be very disastrous if something goes wrong."

"When there are disasters happening across the world, why are we so stubborn to go with it? Can the government forget what happened in Kaiga in 2009 or Mayapuri in 2010?," she asked.

In their defence, senior Department of Atomic Energy official Prabhat Kumar at Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station said the activists were either "misinformed or not informed" and it was for the department to "explain" things to them.

Kumar said, "Safety in nuclear energy was better than any other industry."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced that an expert group would be set up to allay the safety concerns, but just two days later anti KNPP activists resumed their agitation with a three-day fast demanding scrapping of the project.

Singh's assurance had come after a multi-party delegation, including anti-nuclear KNPP activists, met him in Delhi on Friday.

The activists have taken exception to Singh's letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa seeking her cooperation for timely implementation of the project. A section of the academic world also thinks that the government's stand on this issue may not bear fruit.

Abhijit Iyer-Mithra, a research officer with Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Delhi, said, "The activists concerns may be genuine and we have to take it with due concern."

He explained why the Nuclear Regulatory Authority is "not very reliable".

"Members of the Atomic Energy Commission usually go on to occupy positions in Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and there are no checks and balances. Since AERB gets its staff from AEC, there are usually no conflicts and they end up agreeing on all the issues," he told PTI.

On the concern that many activists are either "misinformed or not informed" on nuclear energy, Iyer-Mithra said, "There could be some who don't know much about nuclear issues. But you can't paint the whole lobby with that and not take them seriously. There are some fundamental and real issues."

The government however hopes things will fall in place once the high level panel is set up. Minister of State in prime minister's Office, V Narayanasamy told PTI over phone from Delhi that the meeting is a "good step forward."

"Once the panel is set, they will explain the safety concerns to the people there," he said. Asked about the number of people and who would constitute the high-level panel, he said "The prime minister will announce it shortly. It will have experts from the nuclear world who can explain and address all safety issues which the local people are concerned with."

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