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Solution for Kudankulam project agitation

kudankulam nuclear plant has faced protests by the local people right from the day the project was signed in 1988. These protests have later intensified and the fear of the people has grown manifold following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The fears of the locals are very much justified as they try to draw similarity between fukushima and kudankulam power plants. Both fukushima and kudankulam plants are located very close to the sea. Both are seismic areas as this is the same place that faced the wrath of the killer tsunami in 2004. They also fear that discharge of hot water into the sea might destroy the rich fishing grounds which in turn affects their livelihood. These things are more than enough for locals who are mainly fishermen to express their opposition to the plant. It has prompted fears in the mind of the people that another earthquake in this region might cause damage to the nuclear plant which would eventually expose them to radiation.

consequence of coolant circulation failure in the background of a catastrophic natural event. By doing this the challenge to Kudankulam can be converted into an opportunity to set a new course on nuclear safety in India. A second reason underlying the public's sharpened opposition is the fact that the first two units of the Kudankulam project have never been put through the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process, under which a comprehensive EIA report is prepared, made available to the local people in advance, and a public hearing is held, at which those affected can record their opposition. The EIA procedure is far from sound, and has been considerably weakened. All these needs to be corrected and measures need to be taken to put first 2 units through EIA process. Also the EIA report should be available to the public in advance and public hearings that record their opposition should be held. Their concerns must be duly addressed.

Along with this PM Manmohan Singh has also directed the department of atomic energy to maintain close contact with the local people, the local authorities and the state government. In the backdrop of protests in Kudankulam and Jaitapur, scientists have also revisited designs of future nuclear reactors to ensure they conform to tests of robustness against earthquakes, flooding and extended station blackout. Along with this, PM has also asked AERB to review the safety measures and has held meetings with the departments concerned and authorities to discuss the issue. Four committees have been formed to go into additional security measures after the Fukushima tragedy. In the backdrop of protests scientists have also revisited designs of future nuclear reactors to ensure they conform to tests of robustness against earthquakes, flooding and extended station blackout. Measures need to be taken based on the outcome of these tests and the measures taken must be publicly announced so as to win the confidence of the localites. Since the activists are not aware of all the precautions and arrangements that are already in place, they protest.The state government through its awareness programmes, camps and workshops should convince people about the safety measures in place in the power plant as they also derive benefits from the power plant. They should also educate people regarding the geographical conditions of the place and the level of seismic activity in these areas where the nuclear power plants are located. koodankulam is located in seismic category zone 2 which has a low probability of earthquakes according to seismic classification of India. This should be compared with safety measures taken in nuclear plants located in higher seismic zones such as in Japan. The fears of the people that letting condenser water into the sea affects fish and marine life must also be addressed. Awareness meetings held in the villages should focus on these and it is the responsibility of the leaders of the groups protesting against the plant to convince other members. The benefits of the nuclear energy for the state and for themselves must also be explained. All these would help the protest die down and ensure local co-operation in building the plant. This in turn helps India achieve its intended target of harnessing nuclear energy by 2020.

-Vikram Gs

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