IAEA team inspects Kudankulam plant, protesters announce fast

February 20th, 2012 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Feb 20 (IANS) A two-member team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) carried out a detailed inspection at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) even as the anti-plant protesters announced a 72-hour fast from Monday to protest a clean chit by a state government panel.

“The two member IAEA team is carrying out inspection of the nuclear material in KNPP. The team would account meticulously the amount of nuclear material received and stored,” Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) chairman and managing director S.K. Jain told IANS.

Noting that the inspection and the accounting of nuclear materials will be detailed and meticulous, Jain said it normally takes two days to complete such an inspection.

To a query on to the choice of inspection time when KNPP is facing opposition from the villagers and protests are on, Jain said: “The IAEA has the right to inspect at any time they want.”

The first unit of KNPP is under safeguards as per the agreement between Indian government and IAEA.

India’s nuclear power plant operator, NPCIL, is building two 1,000 MW atomic power reactors with Russian collaboration at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli, around 650 km from Chennai.

However villagers in Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and nearby areas, fearing their safety in case of any accident, protested against the project.

Their agitation, led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), has put a stop to the project work, delaying the commissioning of the first unit slated last December.

As Tamil Nadu government urged the central government to halt work at the power plant and allay the fears of the people, the central and state governments had set up two panels. After meeting thrice last year, the final meeting between the two panels slated for Jan 31 did not take place and the central panel submitted its report, declaring that its job is over.

Subsequently the Tamil Nadu government set up a four-member expert committee to look into the project’s safety aspects and the fears of the local people about the project.

The panel, comprising Atomic Energy Commission’s former chairman M.R. Srinivasan, Anna University professors D. Arivu Oli and S. Iniyan, and retired IAS official L.N. Vijayaraghavan, visited KNPP and also met PMANE representatives.

Addressing the press, the panel members certified that the KNPP is safe and has sufficient safety measures. The clean chit upset the PMANE, who announced their fast.

“The panel seems to be biased one. If they want to say the Kudankulam project is safe then they should have said that in their report to the state government. They should not have certified about the plant in a press meet,” PMANE leader M.Pushparayan told IANS.

He said the state panel did not meet the villagers or the members of PMANE’s expert panel despite their strong demand.

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