Jayalalithaa gives go ahead to nuclear plant

Chennai: Seeking to end the impasse over the Kudankulam nuclear plant issue, the Jayalalilthaa government in Tamil Nadu today gave the go ahead to the controversial project and announced a Rs 500 crore special development package for the area where it is located. "In accordance with (today`s) cabinet decision, immediate steps will be taken (to facilitate commissioning) of the plant," Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said in a statement, breaking her silence over the issue.

She also sought the cooperation of political parties and all concerned to immediately resume work at the plant in Tirunelveli district, stalled following protests since September 2011, spearheaded by the People`s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE). The cabinet decided to allocate Rs 500 crore for locals to set up among others, a cold storage to store fish catch, construct houses, laying of roads and repairing mechanised fishing boats of local fishermen, she said.

The decision comes a day after completion of polling at Sankarankoil, which falls in the same district.  In her five-page statement, Jayalalithaa elaborated the various measures to allay the apprehensions of the locals on the safety aspect by the central and state-appointed teams of experts which had given a clean chit to the Indo-Russian joint venture. The 15-member Central committee, which held four rounds of meeting with representatives of protesters, had replied to the apprehensions raised by the latter over safety and submitted two reports, she said.

It had vouched for the plant`s safety, saying the reactors adhered to all safety norms and that the Atomic Energy Commission had approved the plant after many levels of safety tests. There would be no effect on sea-life due to the effluents as they were well under central norms, she said, quoting the report. The four-member state government appointed committee, comprising nuclear expert and former AEC chief MR Srinivasan, had also vouched for the plant`s safety, she said.

Among its observations in the report, it said there was `no history` of large-scale tremors or tsunami and that the state government had taken all steps to allay fears of the locals besides detailing the safety aspects in the plant. The committee had recommended for creating awareness among locals, the need to set up a cold storage facility for fishermen and boat-repair facility in the locality, she said.

Against this background, both the reports were discussed in the cabinet meeting and various aspects, including safety factors and her government`s policy of implementing development projects without affecting people, were considered, and it was decided to go ahead with the power generation project, she added.