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Tamil Nadu nuclear plant row escalates

Sep 14, 2011 07:42 AM IST India India
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Koodankulam: The Koodankulam nuclear plant in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu was advertised as the answer to crippling power shortages. But villagers from three districts in the State, fearing a nuclear meltdown, are on an indefinite strike with about a 100 on a hunger strike since Monday.

Their one demand - completely shut down the nuclear plant. The protest comes at a time when two of the 1000 megawatt VVER-type reactors are in the final stages of completion.

One of the villagers Sahayiga said, "We don't want the electricity produced from this plant. We want our fertile land. We will not budge from here."

Another villager Joseph said, "After what happened in Fukushima accident all of us know how dangerous this is. We don't want to die like that. People from three districts have assembled here for the past three days, protesting. But the collector has not even come here once. Why?"

Activists say they been wary of the plant ever since its inception.

Anti-nuclear activist S Udayakumar said, "People saw the disaster at Fukushima in their own TV sets and understood that this is not a hypothetical situation, something like this happens we will lose everything. So many other industrialised countries are phasing out nuclear projects."

There is no police presence here at the protest site but they are stationed a few kms away and are not willing to intervene as long as this is a peaceful protest. While the authorities at the Koodankulam nuclear plant have refused to react saying this is a law and order situation and it is upto the state government to handle it.

The protests - which have raised uneasy questions over nuclear safety - have put the government in a tight spot.

Former Governor of India at International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) TP Sreenivasan said, "Koodankulam is very significant for us as this is the first imported nuclear reactor going to be functional. whatever may be the consequences we have to proceed. It is the question of reassuring people, reducing their fears."

This protest is slowly turning out to be a mass movement here at Koodankulam and the government cannot turn a blind eye to it for very long. On the one hand is the nuclear plant in which hundreds of crores of rupees have already been invested and on the other are the growing safety concerns of these villagers.