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PM addresses Kudankulam safety concerns


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday assured a multi-party delegation from Tamil Nadu that a high-level committee would be set up to allay fears about the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP). He also wrote to Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on the government’s high regard for “safety, livelihood and security of the people”.

“For a large and fast growing economy like ours, and given the volatility and uncertainty of international energy markets, it is in our national interest that we tap all sources of energy, and diversify our energy mix,” Manmohan Singh told Jayalalithaa.

“Nuclear energy is one option to enhance our energy security. The central government will ensure that this is pursued with full regard to the safety, livelihood and security of the people,” he added.

Similar assurances were made when a team from Tamil Nadu, including members from political parties, including the Congress, and activists, called on him to discuss their concern over the safety aspects of the 1,000 MW nuclear power plant to be commissioned later this year.

“The prime minister agreed the government will consider sending a panel to discuss the safety of the Kudankulam nuclear power project with the locals,” Communist Party of India national general secretary D. Raja told reporters after the meeting.

“The prime minister gave us a patient hearing,” AIADMK MP V. Maitreyan told reporters.

Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O. Pannerselvam led the delegation, which had members from the Congress, AIADMK and CPI and representatives from Kudankulam, who demanded that the project be halted till the concerns of the locals are addressed.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is building two 1,000 MW capacity nuclear power reactors with Russian technology and equipment in Kudankulam in Tirunelvelli district, about 650 km from the Tamil Nadu capital Chennai. The first unit is expected to go on stream this December.

The meeting Friday was attended by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) V. Narayanasamy and NPCIL chairman S.K. Jain amongst others.

Two memorandums were presented to the prime minister.

“The state government submitted its memorandum demanding stopping of the project till the fears of the people were cleared. We submitted a memorandum demanding scrapping of the project,” M. Pushparayan, convenor of Coastal People’s Federation, told IANS.

According to Pushparayan, the prime minister told the delegation that India has the safest nuclear power plants in the world.

“What surprised us was the presence of NPCIL team. We did not expect them. They also submitted a statement about the safety aspects of the KNPP,” he said.

According to him, there was some disagreement between NPCIL officials and the anti-nuclear power plant activists.

“We told them that we are here to present a memorandum to scrap the project and not to listen to them,” Pushparayan remarked.

He said the memorandum submitted by the anti-nuclear power plant activists demanded scrapping of the project and sharing of the environment impact assessment (EIA) report for the two reactors under construction.

“We have also cited the rejection of permission from the central government under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) for the proposed units at Kudankulam. Former union environment minister Jairam Ramesh held back the approval,” Pushparayan said.

“We have announced resumption of protest Oct 9. First we will explain to the people about our meeting with the Prime Minister and then decide our next course of action,” he added.