The Russian built Koodankulam
nuclear plant in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu is at the
centre of controversy since October 2011. Thousands of villagers
living around the site are blocking highways and staging protest,
preventing further construction work at the nuclear plant citing
safety as the reason for demanding the closure of this nuclear
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has
written to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha that all
precautions would be taken at the Koodankulam nuclear plant to
maintain the highest safety standards..
However, the protesters remain
unconvinced. They fear the nuclear accident similar to the
radiation leak in March 2011 at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant
may could be repeated at Koodankulam and not amount of persuasion
seems to convince them.
They have filed a public interest litigation against the
government of India at the Supreme Court, staying of all proposed
nuclear power plants in the country till satisfactory safety
measures and cost-benefit analyses are completed by independent
To substantiate the argument the litigants have claimed that even
advanced countries like Germany has decided to shutdown all its 17
Nuclear reactors through which it gets 23% of its energy.
The Koodankulam controversy is now being debated in the colleges
of Tamil Nadu. A Chennai based NGO; “Nandini Voice for the
Deprived,” organized an essay competition on the subject for the
college students of Tamil Nadu.
One hundred and twelve college students from across the state
participated in this essay competition amongst them, 65% were
About seventy seven percent of the students held the view that the
Koodankulam nuclear plant should be commissioned, and about twenty
three percent were of the opinion that it should be abandoned..
The students who want the project to be commissioned pointed out
several reasons in favor of the project. One said, India has no
options other than nuclear power in view of the huge scarcity of
conventional source of energy and their rising international
prices. While the non conventional energy such as solar and wind
power should be utilized to the maximum, they may not be adequate
considering the futuristic demand for power in the country. So
nuclear energy is essential for the country.
Second one said; given the serious shortage of power situation in
Tamil Nadu, there is great urgency to commission the nuclear power
plant in the state. This would avoid production loss of several
crores of rupees.
The third said, many suspicions are raised such as fisheries
getting affected, threat of tsunami and cyclones, radiation
effects etc. The arguments advanced are based on suspicions,
pessimistic view and lack of understanding. Senior Indian nuclear
scientists have found all of them to be untrue. So there is little
truth in abandoning the nuclear power plant.
Some other points that, there is certainly political undertone in
the present agitation, most of the protestors are from lower
income group and are uneducated, quite number of them are elderly
people or school students or relatives of fishermen; they have
little knowledge about the issues related to nuclear power plant.
They are being misguided and are giving an impression that they
are sworn opponents of nuclear power.
However, there were some students who seriously want the project
to be abandoned. They are convinced about the futility of a
nuclear power as a source of energy.
One of them argue that the local people are the real stake holders
and even if the majority of the people would want the project to
be commissioned, it should not be done so because the local stake
holders object to it
Another view was that there have been instances of accidents in
nuclear plants elsewhere in the world and this cannot be ignored
by the local people. In such unfortunate event it’s the people
living near Koodankulam area, that would bear the consequences of
Someone argued, human life is more important than the issues of
economic and industrial development and such development factors
cannot get priority when safety concerns for human beings are in
question, particularly when local stake holders are not in it
One opinion says that the scientists are not able to communicate
with the local people and convince them effectively. The
opposition that’s simmering is due to their lack of training in
the communication skills of the scientists.
Someone feels that Tamil Nadu government is giving an impression
that it is in favor of abandoning the Koodankulam nuclear project.
In spite of the huge controversy, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has
not spoken in favor of the project. So in the wake of the silent
stand against the Koodankulam project, the Tamil Nadu government
should see to it that Koodankulam nuclear project is abandoned.
Going by the arguments for and against the motion, it can be noted
that most of the students attempted to address the issue in an
objective way. The views of the students are certainly valuable
should be considered for being allayed.
Notwithstanding the facts, the former chairman of Atomic Energy
Commission M. R Srinivasan has come out in favor of the
commissioning of the Koodankulam nuclear plant.
He has reportedly said that one should never compare the Fukushima
plant with Koodankulam. The Fukushima plant was built on a
beachfront, but the Koodankulam was constructed on a solid terrain
and that too keeping all the safety aspects in mind. Also, it’s
not in a tsunami prone area and the plants have a double
contaminant system which can withstand high pressure.
Srinivasan further said that more than Rs 14,000 crore has been
spent on the project and if the plant is not operated immediately,
it will affect the economic stability of our country.
A fifteen member center panel constituted by the Government of
India did a survey of the safety features in the plant. In its
report it has said the Koodankulam reactors are the safest in the
country and fears of the people are not based on scientific
So far the expert panel has met the protestors three times to
discuss their concerns but have been unable to convince the local
people who are against the nuclear power project.
The previous two meetings of the committees were held on November
7 and 18 but had failed to break the impasse as representatives of
the agitators wanted more information and documents relating to
their safety concerns.
The central committee was set up to allay fears of the locals over
the nuclear power plant after the prolonged protests delayed the
commissioning of the reactor scheduled for this month to March
next year. Only essential maintenance operations were underway at
the plant right now.
Meanwhile, the report of the expert group on Koodankulam nuclear
power project is handed-over to the state panel members, and the
district authorities of the Thirunelveli district on December 15,
2011. It can be downloaded from the PIB website
Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at