PM assures highest safety for Kudankulam, seeks Jayalalithaa’s support


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday assured a multi-party delegation from Tamil Nadu that a team of experts would be formed to allay safety concerns over the Kudankulam nuclear plant. He also sought support of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa for implementing the key atomic project.

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Pushing for atomic power, Manmohan Singh wrote to Jayalalithaa: “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.”

Assuring safety for the nuclear project, he said in his Oct 4 letter that “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.”

In the letter to Jayalalithaa, made public Friday, the prime minister listed out safety measures and clearances obtained for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, in Tirunelvelli district, about 650 km from Chennai, and stressed that he counted on her support in its timely implementation.

The prime minister, an ardent advocate of nuclear energy, had sealed the Indo-US nuclear deal.

He stressed that the government “will not compromise on safety in the pursuit of our nuclear energy programme, whether it is in terms of technology, regulation, skilled manpower or emergency preparedness.”

Acknowledging “understandable concerns” expressed about nuclear safety after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, he assured Jayalalithaa that his government attached the “highest importance to ensuring that the use of nuclear energy in India meets the highest safety standards.”

He added that the government would “actively reach out to local populations at different nuclear power sites and to other sections of society to ally such fears”.

Similar assurances were made when a team from Tamil Nadu, comprising members from political parties, including the Congress, and activists, called on the prime minister here Friday to discuss their concerns over the safety aspects of the 1,000 MW nuclear power plant that is being built with Russia’s assistance.

“It was agreed that since the issues raised were technical in nature and required in-depth discussion, the central government would constitute a small group of experts to interact with the representatives of the people of the region to satisfy all their legitimate concerns,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“This exercise would suitably involve the state government of Tamil Nadu,” said the statement.

“The prime minister agreed that 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 meeting 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, among others.

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. The first unit is expected to go on stream this December.

The delegation presented two memoranda 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.

There was some disagreement between NPCIL officials and the anti-nuclear power plant activists, he said.

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

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 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.