Thousands of Protesters Fail to Block India’s Nuclear Power Plant


IDINTHAKARAI, Tamil Nadu, India, March 21, 2012 (ENS) – Police Monday arrested 190 demonstrators objecting to the start of work at the stalled Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the village of Idinthakarai at the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent.

About 4,000 police and four companies of Central Reserve Police Force’s rapid action force were deployed Monday to confront thousands of protesters who streamed into Indinthakarai from the surrounding area, fearing for their lives in the event of a nuclear accident.

Demonstrators against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, March 19, 2012 (Image from video by S.U. Sisulthan)

The plant is 98 percent complete, but due to the protests, work had been stopped for eight months until the Tamil Nadu government Monday gave the go-ahead to the Russian-built nuclear power plant.

Engineers resumed working Tuesday on one of the power plant’s two 1,000-megawatt reactors. There were no arrests on Tuesday, although people continued to pour into the village, and some anti-nuclear protesters went on indefinite hunger strike.

On a hunger strike, S.P. Udayakumar, convener of the organizing group People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, said they were all prepared to be arrested.

Author, teacher organizer S.P. Udayakumar (Photo credit unknown)

“If police want to arrest us, let them arrest all of us here,” he told reporters. “All of us here are overstepping the law, so let them arrest all of us. It is not appropriate to arrest one or two of us.”

In the state of Kerala, the Kudankulam Antinuclear Struggle Support Group, Kerala, has condemned the action taken by the government against people agitating against the Kudankulam nuclear plant. Convener of the group N. Subrahmanian said the Kudankulam struggle was not merely against a nuclear project but for protecting democracy itself.

In New Delhi today at the Jan Sansad, or People’s Parliament, a resolution condemning the arrests at Kudankulam and the attempted police repression of the protest was approved.

M.G. Devasahayam moved the resolution, which states, “We, the representatives of the social movements, trade unions and other civil society organizations attending the first Rashtriya Jan Sansad in Delhi today condemn the inhuman violent attack and arrest on the struggling groups at Idinthikara, Kudamkulam.”

“This is a direct onslaught on the democratic rights of people who are non-violently fighting for protecting their rights to live. While the Prime Minister has maintained that the greatest danger to the Indian state is terrorism, there is zero respect for non-violent struggles of people’s movements for people’s livelihood,” the resolution states.

People have been protesting the Kudankulam nuclear power plant for months. This women’s protest march took place January 12, 2012. (Image from video by erivadisulthan)

“Kudamkulam nuke plant will definitely affect the lives and livelihoods of the people living in that area. The radioactive particles leaked out will be harmful to the health of people and the environment of the marine system,” the Jan Sansad resolution states. “If any accident, as in the case of Fukushima, happens that will destroy the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people. The cooling water released from the plant will increase the temperature of the seawater and will harm the marine life in the coast, hence the livelihood of the people.”

The resolution calls the state and central governments “highly undemocratic” for installing such a highly destructive plant without considering the protest of local people. “This action shows the real disaster of denying people’s right over development planning. This is clear violation of the principles of democratic decentralization.”

Officials could not provide satisfactory answers to the questions raised by the people, the resolution maintains, objecting that the Russian VVER reactor is unsafe.

“The arguments raised by some technical experts that Russian VVER reactor is safe is not acceptable to common peoples because even in Russia, there are many experts who had raised the concern of the safety of this reactor,” the resolution states. “After the disastrous accident at Fukushima, triggered by earthquake and tsunami, even the nuclear lobby will not deny the high risks associated with the plant.”

The Jan Sansad has decided to focus on this issue as a symbol of “misplaced development priorities of the country as well as the undemocratic manner in which such policies are implemented by the government,” in its planned March 23 protest at Jantar Mantar. Located in New Delhi, the Jantar Mantar consists of an observatory incorporating 13 ancient astronomy instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, from 1727 to 1734.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, MP Shri V. Narayansamy (Photo courtesy V. Narayansamy)

Meanwhile, in India’s Parliament today, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Shri V. Narayansamy, said the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd., a public sector corporation under the Department of Atomic Energy, is in discussions with foreign companies that might supply equipment for large-capacity nuclear reactors on a “technical cooperation basis.”

Minister Narayansamy said these companies are Russia’s Atomstroy, AREVA of France, Westinghouse Electric Company and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy of the United States.

Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India after thermal, hydroelectric and renewable sources of electricity. As of 2010, India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants, generating 4,780 MW, while seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5,300 MW.

In October 2010, India announced a plan to reach a nuclear power capacity of 63,000 MW by 2032, but populations around proposed Indian nuclear power plant sites have mounted protests, warning that atomic energy is not a clean and safe alternative to fossil fuels.

After months of absence, officials of India’s Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd. will participate in the regular power project review meeting called by the Tamil Nadu government on Thursday, a power sector official told the Indo-Asian News Service. The nuclear officials are expected to provide the government with a status report on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.

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