US says Nimitz is safe, AIADMK not convinced


Chennai : The United States Tuesday assured India that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz – which is to berth at the Chennai port next month – is safe, but Tamil Nadu opposition leader J. Jayalalitha remained unconvinced.

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"The safety record of the US nuclear-powered warship is outstanding," the US Consulate General in Chennai said in a statement.

"There has never been a nuclear accident in the 56-plus-year history of the programme," it said.

"US Navy nuclear-powered warships have steamed more than 135 million miles and amassed more than 5,700 reactor-years of safe operating experience," it added.

The USS Nimitz is expected to visit Chennai port for four days from July 1. It will carry nearly 6,000 sailors and will be accompanied by a smaller ship, the USS Princeton.

The AIADMK party, however, maintained its opposition to the visit, with its leader J. Jayalalitha urging New Delhi not to let it enter Indian waters.

Allowing the US warship to berth at Chennai port, she said, would be "hazardous to the people of nearby cities".

"This is a serious issue and the possible radiation hazards to the people of Chennai cannot be taken lightly," she said in a statement.

Referring to Defence Minister A.K. Antony clarification Monday that India allowed foreign warships to visit the country as a reciprocal measure, Jayalalitha said the statement was "specious and cannot be accepted".

She pointed out that countries such as Australia did not allow the warship to enter their waters.

Meanwhile, Chennai port authorities and the central government's Department of Atomic Energy have issued an alert ahead of the ship's visit.

The American consulate statement called the visit "a landmark event" and added that US and Indian navies had conducted regular joint exercises on the high seas as part of a bilateral framework known as the Malabar Series.