Anti-Nuclear Protests: The Kudankulum Conundrum

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By Karthik Ganesh:

In the recent times, Kudankulam, a remote village in the district of Tirnulveli, Tamil Nadu has hogged the limelight, not for its difficult pronunciation, I assure you, but for the protests spearheaded by the Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy- a group that exists since 2003. The protests were over the sanctioning of the construction of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). The latest High Court ruling cleared the decks for commissioning of Units I and II of the KNPP, stating that there was no objection to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. to proceed with the project.

The ruling Bench observed that there was absolutely no reason for them to disbelieve the report of the Expert Committee appointed by the state government (A simple job done!). Also, in a 300 page report, they suggested that the District Collector must conduct offshore drills periodically for the villagers and the state government should provide for creating infrastructural facilities for repairing of mechanised boats for fishermen, a multi-speciality hospital with all facilities and construction of CBSE and state government schools in accordance with the suggestions made by Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam.

Even though the Bench dared anyone to question the cognizance of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), it directed the government and nuclear authorities to ensure that all seventeen of the safety recommendations made by the task force are adhered to. The court also noted that only six of the seventeen safety recommendations are complied with as per status and more than one million people live within the 30 km radius of KKNPP, which is way above the AERB stipulations. This happens to be a case of irony, to say the least.

Tamil Nadu is in an appalling state of shortage of electricity and is looking out for feasible energy solutions. They believe that KKNPP could be a game changer for them and be an answer for the energy crunch. But in the haste of solving a rudimentary problem they have jeopardized the lives of a section of the society. In spite of all the clearances from the High Court, the state government is yet to ascertain an escape route for the inhabitants living in and around the nuclear plant, prepare a plan to decommission the power plant post its life span and formulate a detailed analysis of a disaster scenario in agreement with the international standards.

The coming month’s protests, which you ought to expect, would play a pivotal role in deciding whether KKNPP would stand the test of time and in ensuring that it is reformulated, hopefully in consonance with the recommendations of the task force so as to avert a Fukushima-like disaster.

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