We have been opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) ever since it was conceived in the mid-1980s. The people of Koodankulam village themselves were misled by false promises such as 10,000 jobs, water from Pechiparai dam in Kanyakumari district, and fantastic development of the region. We tried in vain to tell them that they were being deceived. Without any local support, we could not sustain the anti-Koodankulam movement for too long.
Now the people of Koodankulam know and understand that this is not just a fisherfolk’s problem, they may be displaced, and they have to deal with radioactive poison. Their joining the movement in 2007 has invigorated the campaign now. And (almost) all of us here in the southernmost tip of India oppose the Koodankulam NPP for a few specific reasons: The KKNPP reactors are being set up without sharing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Site Evaluation Study and Safety Analysis Report with the people, or the people’s representatives or the press. No public hearing has been conducted for the first two reactors either. There is absolutely no democratic decision-making in or public approval for this project.  The Tamil Nadu Government G.O. 828 (29.4.1991 – Public Works Department) establishes clearly that “area between 2 to 5 km radius around the plant site, [would be] called the sterilization zone.” This means that people in this area could be displaced. But the KKNPP authorities promise orally and on a purely adhoc basis that nobody from the neighboring villages would be displaced. This kind of adhocism and doublespeak causes suspicion and fears of displacement.  More than 1 million people live within the 30 km radius of the KKNPP which far exceeds the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) stipulations. It is quite impossible to evacuate this many people quickly and efficiently in case of a nuclear disaster at Koodankulam.  The coolant water and low-grade waste from the KKNPP are going to be dumped in to the sea which will have a severe impact on fish production and catch. This will undermine the fishing industry, push the fisherfolks into deeper poverty and misery and affect the food security of the entire southern Tamil Nadu and southern Kerala.  Even when the KKNPP projects function normally without any incidents and accidents, they would be emitting Iodine 131, 132, 133, Cesium 134, 136, 137 isotopes, strontium, tritium, tellurium and other such radioactive particles into our air, land, crops, cattle, sea, seafood and ground water. Already the southern coastal belt is sinking with very high incidence of cancer, mental retardation, down syndrome, defective births due to private and government sea-sand mining for rare minerals including thorium. The KKNPP will add many more woes to our already suffering people.  The quality of construction and the pipe work and the overall integrity of the KKNPP structures have been called into question by the very workers and contractors who work there in Koodankulam. There have been international concerns about the design, structure and workings of the untested Russian-made VVER-1000 reactors.  The then Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment and Forest Mr.Jairam Ramesh announced a few months ago that the central government had decided not to give permission to KKNPP 3-6 as they were violating the Coastal Regulation Zone stipulations. It is pertinent to ask if KKNPP 1 and 2 are not violating the CRZ terms.  Many political leaders and bureaucrats try to reassure us that there would be no natural disasters in the Koodankulam area. How can they know? How can anyone ever know? The 2004 December tsunami did flood the KKNPP installations. There was a mild tremor in the surrounding villages of Koodankulam on March 19, 2006. On August 12, 2011, there were tremors in 7 districts of Tamil Nadu.  Indian Prime Minster himself has spoken about terrorist threats to India’s nuclear power plants. Most recently, on August 17, 2001, Minister of State for Home, Mr. Mullappally Ramachandran said: “the atomic establishments continue to remain prime targets of the terrorist groups and outfits.”  The important issue of liability for the Russian plants has not been settled yet. Defying the Indian nuclear liability law, Russia insists that the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA), secretly signed in 2008 by the Indian and Russian governments, precedes the liability law and that Article 13 of the IGA clearly establishes that NPCIL is solely responsible for all claims of damages.  In 1988 the authorities said that the cost estimate of the Koodakulam 1 and 2 projects was Rs. 6,000 crores. In November 1998, they said the project cost would be Rs. 15,500. In 2001, the ministerial group for economic affairs announced that the project cost would be Rs. 13,171 crores and the Indian government would invest Rs. 6,775 crores with the remainder amount
coming in as Russian loan with 4 percent interest. The fuel cost was estimated to be Rs. 2,129 crores which would be entirely Russian loan. No one knows the 2011 figures of any of these expenses. No one cares to tell the Indian public either.  The March 11, 2011 disaster in Fukushima has made it all too clear to the whole world that nuclear power plants are prone to natural disasters and no one can really predict their occurrence. When we cannot effectively deal with a nuclear disaster, it is only prudent to prevent it from occurring. Even the most industrialized and highly advanced country such as Germany has decided to phase out their nuclear power plants by the year 2022.Switzerland has decided to shun nuclear power technology. In a recent referendum, some 90 percent of Italians have voted against nuclear power in their country. Many Japanese prefectures and their governors are closing nuclear power plants in their regions. Both the United States and Russia
have not built a new reactor in their countries for 2-3 decades ever since major accidents occurred at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
In our own country, Mamta Banerjee government in West Bengal has stopped the Russian nuclear power park project at Haripur in Purba Medhinipur district and taken a position that they do want any nuclear power project in their state. Similarly, the people of Kerala have decided not to host any nuclear power project in their state. And finally, the Indian government’s mindless insistence on nuclear power, utmost secrecy in all of its nuclear agreements and activities, and its sheer unwillingness to listen to the people’s concerns and fears make us very doubtful about the real benefactors of all this nuclear hoopla. Is it all for us, the people of India? Or for the corporate profits of the Russian, American and French companies? Or for the Indian military? Are the lives and futures of the Indian citizens inferior to all these?
S.P. Udayakumar, Ph.D.
* People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
* National Alliance of Anti-nuclear Movements (NAAM)
(For a Nuclear-Free India that has
No Deals, No Mines, No Reactors, No Dumps, and No Bombs)
42/27 Esankai Mani Veethy, Parakkai Road Jn.,
Nagercoil 629 002, Tamil Nadu, India