Indian nuclear power protest turns deadly

Sept. 11, 2012 at 1:55 PM
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NEW DELHI, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- An Indian government official blamed foreign organizations, whom he said are seeking to hamper India's nuclear ambitions, for the anti-nuclear power protests in southern India that resulted in the death of one person.

A fisherman was killed Monday when police clashed with thousands of villagers who were trying to prevent enriched uranium from being loaded into the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu.

"Some foreign (non-governmental organizations) are interested in it," Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told The Hindu newspaper in reference to the protests. "I am aware of these NGOs but I am not going to name those countries."

The protesters, mostly fishermen and villagers who live in coastal areas, say they are concerned that nuclear waste from the coastal Kudankulam facility will damage the ecosystem and ruin their livelihoods, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Opposition to Kudankulam has intensified since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan last year.

Kudankulam's reactors, built by state-owned Nuclear Power Corp. of India in conjunction with Russia's Atomstroyexport, are to be the first foreign-designed reactors to operate in the country since the 1970s.

A petition filed with India's Supreme Court Tuesday said the Madras High Court's green light for the plant was granted without ensuring that 17 critical safety features recommended by a central government task force were put in place, Press Trust of India reports.

"Thus it is absolutely clear that the government intends to push the project through without any consideration of the safety, costs, environmental impact and other concerns regarding the project," the petition said.

"The government has also brutally cracked down on the local community peacefully protesting against the plant and has slapped sedition cases against thousands of protesters," the petition states.

The petition warns that if a natural disaster were to occur before the 17 measures are implemented, "there is every chance of a meltdown and huge leakage of radiation," requiring the evacuation of millions of people.

India's 20 nuclear plants have an installed capacity of 4,780 megawatts. The government aims to generate 20,000 megawatts of power from nuclear power by 2020.

But a former Indian regulatory official warns that the government is attempting to "ram through" new nuclear reactors without a "proper dialogue" with the public.

"I would like them to stop all nuclear projects and take a complete re-look at the way they are managing the nuclear sector, vis-a-vis the public," A. Gopalakrishnan, who served as chairman of India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board from 1993-96, told the Financial Times.

India's comptroller and auditor general, in a report released last month, warned that a Fukushima- or Chernobyl-like disaster could occur in India if the government doesn't address nuclear safety.

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