Koodankulam Struggle: A Chronology (Part I)

Compiled by S. P. Udayakumar

(From The Hindu, Frontline, The Times of India, India Abroad, The New York Times reports, and other local publications in Tamil Nadu. This is a partial list of some of the events.)

Source: S. P. Udayakumar, The Koodankulam Handbook. Nagercoil, India: Transcend South Asia, 2004 (ISBN: 81-89312-00-6)

November 20: The Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi signed the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project deal in Delhi.
[It is important to note that this agreement came within just two years of the nightmarish Chernobyl accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 with disastrous consequences.]

December 19: The proposed foundation laying ceremony was put off indefinitely due to widespread opposition to the project among the local public.

December 19: The opponents of the Koodankulam project which included ‘Samathuva Samudaya Iyakkam’ (Social Equality Movement) of Rev. Y. David took out a massive rally at Tirunelveli.
[Several groups such as the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), the National Fish workers Forum (NFF), the Tamil Nadu Fish workers Union (TNFU), the Social Action Movement (SAM), the Palmyrah Worker’s Development Society (PWDS), the Peace Association for Social Action (PASA), Group for a Peaceful Indian Ocean (GPIO), and several others have directly or indirectly opposed the Koodankulam project in various parts of Tamil Nadu.]

January 11: Another massive rally was held at Nagercoil against the project.

May 1: The coastal march “Protect Waters, Protect Life” held at Kanyakumari was broken up by driving a local transport bus into it. Six fishermen were badly injured in police firing and false cases were slapped on the protesters.

August 27: Over 120 organizations representing farmers, fish workers, women, students, environment groups, and representatives of various political parties (except the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxists) organized a meeting in Kanyakumari district. Thomas Kochery of the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) and Dr. Kumaradhas, a local politician, led the Anti-Koodankulam Committee.

April 29: Several organizations and the public demonstrated in Nagercoil against using Pechiparai dam water for the Koodankulam reactors.

January 30: A bicycle rally organized by Murpokku Manavar Sangam (Progressive Students’ Association) and Murpokku Ilaigner Ani (Progressive Youth League) started in Madras and went through Vellore, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore, Ramanathapuram and Madurai.

February 10: The rally concluded with a public meeting followed by a cultural program.

Soviet Union Collapsed; Gorbachev lost power; Rajiv Gandhi was killed; and Koodankulam project was shelved.

March 21: The American President Bill Clinton reportedly put pressure on his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, at their Helsinki Summit to refrain from building the nuclear reactors in Koodankulam. Earlier this year, the American Vice-President, Al Gore, had brought up the issue with the Russian Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, during a session of the bilateral joint commission.

March 25: Indian Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda and the Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed an agreement, a supplement to the 1988 agreement, to commission a detailed project report on the Koodankulam project. Gowda was accompanied by among others, two Chidambarams, the Finance Minister and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
According to the deal, Russia would deliver two Russian-designed standard high-pressure VVER-1000 water-cooled and water-moderated reactors that would produce 1,000 Mwt power per unit.
Moscow would extend a $2.6 billion credit to India at four percent annual interest to be paid back over 12 years after the projected commissioning of the first reactor. The credit would be paid back in hard currency and part in clearing dollars and both sides were not decided on the exact proportion of this repayment scheme.

April 7: According to a report in The Hindu (“India: Koodankulam – experts express concern” by R. Parthasarathy in the issue dated April 7, 1997): “The State Government’s request to the Centre to reconsider the proposal for a nuclear plant at Koodankulam with Russian collaboration in Tirunelveli district has caused concern among energy experts.”
[Obviously, the Tamil Nadu Government had problem with the proposed project but was swiftly subdued by the nukedom and New Delhi?!]

April 15: The Koodankulam project’s cost estimate in 1988 was Rs. 6,000 crores. The present start-estimate (as opposed to the end- cost) today is an alarming sum of Rs. 17,000 crores. [One crore is ten million]

September 5: The goal of producing 20,000 Megawatt nuclear power by the year 2020 was said to have been established by the Indian nukedom in a “Vision 2020” seminar.

September 9: Dr. Hans Blix, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that India’s refusal to subject all its atomic installations to an IAEA governed international inspection regime was likely to stand in the way of India’s imports of nuclear technology from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

October 6: It was reported that the Russians “seem to agree to take back the (spent) fuel,” but a clear agreement was yet to be reached.

December 20: It was reported that Dr.Alexy Yablokov, Chairman of the Russian National Ecological Security Council, stated that the Russian reactors were “highly unsafe.”

January 23: Agreement on financial terms was reached. India had suggested that a major part of the payment would be made in hard currency (dollar) and the rest in Rupees, but Russians insisted on making the whole payment in hard currency. It was agreed finally that the entire payment would be in hard currency with some compromises on the payment mechanism.

June 21: Russian Atomic Energy Minister, Yevgeny Adamov, and Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, R. Chidambaram signed a supplementary accord in Delhi to go ahead with the Koodankulam project. Chidambaram told the press that a detailed project report for the construction would be prepared in the next two years and the actual construction work would take another six years after the report submission.
The Chairman and Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Y. S. R. Prasad, announced at the signing of the agreement that the spent fuel from Koodankulam “will not be sent to Russia just as we do not send the spent fuel from Tarapur. We can reprocess it and use it for our reactors.” Prasad said later in November 1998, “it was too early to think about” setting up a reprocessing plant at Koodankulam (The Hindu, November 5, 1998). The Koodankulam reactor would use about 30 tonnes of fuel annually.

June 24: The US said that the Russian decision to build two nuclear reactors in Koodankulam was not good news and that it sent the “wrong signal at the wrong time.” [The reference was to India’s May 1998 nuclear tests.] The State Department spokesman James Rubin said: :Even before the latest test, we urged Russia’s obligations as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group not to sell reactors to countries that didn’t have so-called full scope safeguards on all facilities.”

July 4: A Frontline report (“Koodankulam is back” by T. S. Subramanian in issue dated July 4, 1998) mentions: “The [Nuclear Power Corporation] sources said that up to six reactors could be built at the site. The area where the first two reactors would come up had been identified and the Russians were satisfied with it.”
[It looks like the Indian nukedom has a larger plan for Koodankulam that is kept away from the Indian public. The Atomic Energy Act of 1962 (clause 18) states that we cannot ask, or gather or disclose any information about present, past or future or planned atomic plants. This officially sanctioned secrecy helps the Indian nukedom get away with anything and everything.]

October 18-22: The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) organized a workshop at Nagercoil on Koodankulam and related issues.

November 4: Russian and Indian nuclear engineers have started working on a $57 million Detailed Project Report (DPR). The reactors are expected to be ready by 2006 and the cost would be roughly $3.1 billions.

November 5: The Indian nukedom organized a seminar in Chennai to take public into confidence on Koodankulam. The Atomic Energy regularly Board (AERB) Chairman, P. Rama Rao, said, without disclosing details, that “the site evaluation for Koodankulam had been done.”

December 5: The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) organized a seminar in Chennai (Madras) on “Today Pokhran, Tomorrow Koodankulam” with a lot of activists, journalists, researchers and the public.

January: The National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) organized workshops on the dangers of the VVER 1000 reactors (to be used in Koodankulam) with the help of an Australian scientist John Hallam at Nagercoil, Tirunelveli and Madurai. Several Kanyakumari district residents held individual consultations to initiate a mass movement against the project.

February 21: The Madras High Court upheld release of water from Pechiparai dam in Kanyakumari district to the Koodankulam Atomic Power Plant (KAPP). The annual demand of water at the rate of 10 cusecs a day would amount to nine million cubic meter by which 945 acres could be irrigated.

March 26: There was a leak of heavy water in the second unit of MAPS reactor at Kalpakkam, near Chennai. The Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) claimed: “The release to the environment is maintained well within the limits specified by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).” [The AERB is just another wing of the Indian nukedom.] The NPC press release said further: “As per the design of the pressurised heavy water reactor, a small quantity of the heavy water escaping from the system is recovered continuously through vapour recovery dryers and recycled back to the coolant system.

April 12: Sergei N. Ivanov, director general of the Russian Electric Power Company that operates 29 Nuclear power plants in Russia said that his enterprise “lacks money to pay workers, perform maintenance and repairs, inspect crucial pipes and even buy fuel. “He said, “At times the plants have only two or three days of fuel on hand.” The New York Timesreported (April 12, 1999): “The Russian company would like to close nine of older reactors, but it says it has no money for decommissioning them. It says its best prospect for earning that money is to build additional reactors and sell the power.

April 21: Private sector participation in nuclear power generation in India was welcomed by the NPC and AEC officials. In order to meet the 20,000 megawatt nuke power by 2020, they needed Rs. 80,000 crores and hence this plan.

July 15: The Hindu newspaper editorially noted: “There is also no unanimity of opinion on the operational efficiency of nuclear generation and its being more economical as well on matters relating to safety, all of which will have to be thoroughly assessed before decisions are taken on the projects now on the anvil.

July 28: The Indo-Russian Inter-Government Commission discussed ways and means of expanding bilateral trade and utilizing the funds for investments in Indian projects. Russia would open a rupee account with the Reserve Bank of India to utilize the debt funds for investments in India such as the Koodankulam project.

November 14: The opponents of the Koodankulam project met in Nagercoil, decided to revive the struggle against it, and founded the “Anumin Nilaya Ethirpu Iyakkam” (Nuclear Power Project Opposition Movement). The group started sending postcards to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu requesting him to stop the project.

December 6: India and Russia today decided to explore jointly gas hydrates -a new form of energy source- in the sea surrounding India. This is one of the 25 joint projects of the International Long Term Programme (ILTP) of cooperation in science and technology.

December 26: The “Anumin Nilaya Ethirpu Iyakkam” (Nuclear Power Project Opposition Movement) organized a seminar at Nagercoil against the Koodankulam project.

January: Several hundred organizations and individuals from around the world appealed to the Indian and the Russian authorities in a well-document sign-on letter to scrap the Koodankulam nuclear power project. Copies of the letter were sent to the Presidents of Sri Lanka and the Maldives also.

May 17: President Brush announces plans to revive the civilian nuclear power industry in the US as part of his energy policy.

May: Jadugoda mines in East Singbhum disrrict, Jharkhand produce radioactive Uranium Oxide. This “Yellow Cake: is sent to Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) in Hyderabad and wastes brought back to Jadugoda and dumped by Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) in three tailing ponds causing serious health hazards to tribal people. Mr. Ghanshayam Biruli of Jharkhand Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) is campaigning against it.

June 9: Twelve Russian experts concluded two-day visit to Koodankulam to finalize tender document.

June 23: Indian Government sanctioned Rs. 125 crores for carrying out the excavation work in Koodankulam. The Centre approved 229 MV third and fourth units at Kaiga.

September 3: NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) acknowledged that the company received a budgetary support of Rs. 586 crores to meet capital expenditure. Russian credit of Rs 134 crores for Detailed Project report work of the Koodankulam
project was also received. The company raised RS. 659.50 crores from the market and Rs. 145 crores through infrastructure bonds. Russians would provide all materials, equipment, spares and fuel.

September 21: India’s N-power capacity expected to be around 10,000 MW in 10 years.

October 4: Ground water in a radius of 10 Kms around the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) has high level of Nitrates which limit oxygen-carrying capacity of blood and cause blue baby syndrome. The Andhra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSCB) officials admit they are unwilling to go near the complex.

October 5: The Times of India editorially commented on October 5, 2001: “..A Chernobyl is waiting to happen here… Unfortunately, in India, nuclear issues are treated as something quite out of the preview of the ordinary citizen and which can only be comprehended by a select group…The kind of medical horror being visited on innocent people by a lax establishment ought to prompt the National Human Rights Commission to take up this issue.”

November 3: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) according financial sanction to commence work on Koodankulam NPP. It is expected to cost RS. 13,171 crores. India would spend Rs. 6,755 crores and the remaining would be Russian credit (at 4 percent interest). Rs. 2,129 crores was allocated to procure fuel (initial core and five reloads). Out of this, Rs. 367 crores would be in equity form and the rest Russian credit.

November 3: Russia offered earlier this year to build four more reactors at Koodankulam. Although India welcomed it, Russia must overcome Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) restriction. NGS, a 27-member group, calls Russian cooperation in Koodankulam a violation of NSG guidelines on technology transfers. The guidelines require recipient country to accept complete international control over its nuclear program. But India has refused to place its nuclear program under “full-scope safeguards” of IAEA.

November 6: Prime Minister Mr. A. B. Vajpayee signed final agreement on Koodankulam NPP.

November 10: A broad umbrella organization, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Power (PMANP), was founded at Madurai.

December 2: PMANP Steering Committee met for the first time with a comprehensive agenda.


January 6: Kanyakumari Chapter of PMANP planning meeting was held at Nagerciol.

January 19: One-day seminar was organized by the Madurai Chapter of PMANP.

January 29: Tirunelveli Chapter OF PMANP planning meeting was held at Palayamcottai

January 30: Thoothukudi Chapter of PMANP planning meeting was held at Thoothukudi.

February 17: PMANP Steering Committee met at Madurai.

February 28: A one-day seminar on “Health Hazards of Radiation” was organized at Nagercoil by the Nuclear Power Awareness Committee. Koodankulam project director Mr. S. K. Agrawal undertook publicly at a national seminar on “Health Hazards of Radiation” held at Nagercoil that he would share the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), that is said to have been done in 1988, and the Koodankulam site evaluation report with the public. He also expressed willingness to let a few people see the safety analysis report in Mumbai office.

February 29: A few PMANP leaders were shown around the Koodankulam project site by its director Mr. S. K. Agrawal. He said he would share the EIA and other reports as soon as he came back from his Mumbai trip.

April 4: While the Nuclear Power Corporation is on massive expansion drive, no EB in the country is interested in buying power from it because of high cost (Rs 4.20 a unit). NPC is not able to recover some Rs. 400 crores every year.

April 26: A one–day fast at Kanyakumari Collector office (by Nuke Power Awareness Committee).

May 11: PMANP Conference Planning Meeting was held at Radhapuram.

July 13 : Kanyakumari Chapter of PMANP met at Nagercoil.

July 26: PMANP Steering Committee met at Madurai.

July 27: In a major policy shift, NPC has decided to go for 700 MW plants from now on. These plants will come up near existing facilities in Narora, Kakrapar and Kota. Power Minister Mr. Suresh Prabhu said by the end of eleventh plan, nuclear power generation would be about 15,000 MV and in another ten years, it would be 40,000 MW.

August 30: The Assembly Assurance Committee Chairman, Mr. C. Gnanasekaran, MLA, said Committee members appealed to Koodankulam authorities to allay the neighboring villagers’fears in a public meeting and their suggestions in order to obtain TNPCB consent.

September 8: Two prominent Al-Qaeda leaders claimed in a TV interview that they had initially planned to crash the hijacked planed into nuclear power plants (instead of WTC). It was abandoned as they feared it might “go out of control” but future nuclear targets are not ruled out.

September 20: Addressing the general conference of IAEA in Vienna, Mr. Anil Kakodkar warned that denial of nuclear technology or equipment will increase India’s dependence on fossil fuel with associated damage to the global environment.
India cannot have another deal with Russia as they joined NSG. Finland has recently decided to set up a NPP (after a long break of 20 years) by citing the Kyoto Protocol (which requires countries to cut down emissions of greenhouse gases like C02 from burning fossil fuels that contribute to global warning).

September 20: KKNPP Director Mr. Agrawal announced in a local college seminar that a mini port would be built at Koodankulam in order to bring the heavy equipment from Russia.

October 1: Strategic Forces Command (SFC) to look after the country’s nuclear assets is on the anvil.

October 1: A team of foreign scientists have found out people living by the Chavara-Neendakara coastal area near Kollam in Kerala exhibit a high rate of hereditable “point mutation” in their DNA because of high natural radiation. The monazite sands in the area contain radioactive thorium. Point mutation happens when one of the four bases (that make up the genetic code) along a DNA stand gets changed.

October 19: Mr. Anil Kakodkar said there are no plans to set up power plants in new sites as there are enough space in existing sites.

October 22: On a personal initiative, PMANP leader Mr. Gomez met Sri Lankan Minister for Environment and Forestry, Mr. Rukman Senanayake in Colombo about the dangers of the Koodankulam project to people in southern India and Sri Lanka.

November 9: PMANP Conference Planning meeting was held at Koodankulam. Some 100 people attended the meeting and several committees were constituted.

November 22: The Conference Committee met at Kooduthazhai and took important decisions.


January 25: The PMANP Awareness Conference was held at Koodankulam.

January 30: An NAPM rally and public meeting was held at Nagercoil under the leadership of Medha Patkar.


January 20: A one day hunger-strike was held at World Social Forum, Mumbai by PMANP.


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