Amidst the danger of degradation of the 2,000-Mw Kudankulam project in Tamil Nadu due to complete stoppage of work, state-run Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) on Sunday received a boost after former President APJ Kalam certified the project had 3G safety aspects.
Kalam, who has been quite vocal about the need for nuclear power and especially the Kudankulam project, held separate meetings with NPC officials in the early hours and later visited the plant site and met about 30 villagers. Incidentally, a section of villagers from 20 nearby villages came out in full support of the project and, in their submission to Kalam, expressed the need for early completion of the project and commencement of power generation.
Kalam, who was accompanied by Atomic Energy Commission chairman Sri Kumar Banerjee, NPC chairman and managing director S K Jain and Kudankulam power plant officials, said he was fully satisfied with the safety of the plant.
His visit to the project comes two days after Banerjee and Jain had met Tamil Nadu chief secretary Debendranath Sarangi and discussed ways to allay the villagers’ fears.
The visit is crucial, especially when phase I of the project is 99.5 per cent complete and phase II is 97 per cent over. However, NPC, which has spent more than Rs 13,000 crore so far, is finding it difficult to carry out essential services at the site, thanks to the villagers blocking entry of its scientists and engineers. Moreover, 6,000 contract labourers have already left for their respective states due to the ongoing agitation that began on October 13.
Site director M K Balaji told Business Standard: “The former president held talks with us from 12 am to 4.30 am and later visited the plant during 9 am-1 pm. We briefed him on the status of the project. He has expressed full satisfaction over the safety aspects.”
Kudankulam panchayat chief P Izhil Aram said, “We have submitted a memorandum to Kalam, saying the work should begin immediately so that the generation can be started soon. The project is essential to meet the area’s and the state’s growing need for power.”
He said the project was safe as advanced safety measures had been applied by NPC. “A couple of villagers recently visited the NPC-run nuclear power projects at Tarapur (Maharashtra), Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu) and Rajasthan. We are of the view that there is no need to fear about safety and security. There is no danger to locals,” he opined.
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is spearheading agitation against the project, skipped the meeting with Kalam. Pushpa Rayan, coordinator of the steering committee at PMANE, said “We were prepared to talk to Kalam. We welcomed him on Saturday after his arrival. However, he should have been more open, keeping aside his pro-nuclear power stand.” She added that their agitation to press for scrapping the project would be further stepped up.