Another standoff for Tamil Nadu: Kudankulam

Written by Sukalp Sharma | Sukalp Sharma | Updated: Dec 4 2011, 08:21am hrs
As the Mullaperiyar dam issue reaches a flashpoint, voices have been raised over another stalemate that Tamil Nadu is facingprotests over the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. It is being said that while the state finds a 116-year-old dam safe, it finds a new power plant unsafe.

While the R13,000-crore mega project is considered critical for the woefully inadequate electricity supply for Tamil Nadu, protests by local villagers and the political merry-go-round that has ensued has resulted into a standoff. The most recent trigger for panicky protests against the plant was the radiation leak at Fukushima in Japan after the nuclear plant there faced damage due to the massive earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, and the hot run trial of a unit at the Kudankulam plant in August this year.

With Unit I of the 2,000 mw project 99.2% ready and 94.6% of Unit II ready as of October, the commissioning of the plant has been postponed from December 2011 to Match 2012 for Unit I and to December 2012 for Unit II. Considering that the project is already four years behind the scheduled commissioning, the frustrating logjam is hurting all the parties concernedfrom the protesting locals to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), the central government, as well as the the Tamil Nadu government. Most scientists and workers at the plant haven't been able to go to work since October, while protests and a relay fast have been going on at the nearby fishing village of Idinthikarai for more than a 100 days now.

Attempts by former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam to intervene and allay fears of villagers residing around the plant complex have also borne little result, with protesters and activists rejecting Kalam's assurances. Allegations of a 'foreign hand' and questions over the protesters' source of funding haven't helped dispel fears and the distrust between the central government and the anti-nuclear activists leading the protests. While the protesters have urged the CM to make her stand clear on the issue, the AIADMK has been playing safe by toeing a politically correct line and trying to balance the Centre, as well as the local constituency. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu waits for the 925 mw of power the PM promised the state of the 2,000 mw capacity of the project.