Koodankulam: The Absurd “Offsite Emergency” Drama and Unanswered Questions

The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project along with Tirunelveli district administration has carried out an “offsite emergency exercise.”
The following is the Scenario: June 9th early morning the shift charge engineer at KKNPP declared a Plant Emergency; then the Site Director rushed to the plant and declared Site Emergency Exercise. Alert messages were sent to all the relevant officials including the District Collector who declared an offsite emergency and carried out three-stage counter measures (which, according to newspaper reports, are): announcements that asked people to stay indoors, distribution of iodine tablets and evacuation.

This absurd “Offsite Emergency” drama gives rise to a few uncomfortable questions:

[1] At least 44 people, mostly precious little children, have been killed in a Dengue epidemic in the past few weeks here in Tirunelveli district. The district administration has been helplessly watching people die and had done nothing to prevent this shameful and criminal loss of life. Who would console all these mothers and fathers who have suffered the ultimate loss in life? Who is responsible for all these unwanted deaths? What does the district administration have to say about this?

[2] The district administration that could not maintain basic sanitation in the district and prevent this completely avoidable death and destruction now wants us to trust them with the management of a nuclear accident. How convincing it is!

[3] Why was Nakkanery village with hardly 300 people chosen for this absurd drama when Koodankulam, Idinthakarai, Vairavikinaru, Chettikulam, Sriranganarayanapuram, S.S.Puram, Perumanal and Koottapuli with thousands of people are much closer to the nuclear plant? Is Nakkanery chosen because most of the daily wage laborers would have gone to work and there would be hardly 100 illiterate women and infants at Nakkanery during the drill and they could be easily manipulated?

[4] If 100 Nakkanery villagers are trained, how do millions of other people in the 16 km or 30 km radius and beyond get the necessary information and experience to face a nuclear disaster?

[5] Even after undergoing the exercise, how come people of Nakkanery say they have no idea what happened in their midst and what all the authorities did. The local Panchayat president has told the media that the officials came to deal with the Dengue epidemic. Some villagers have claimed that the officials were there to ask them what they wanted for their village. The authorities claim one thing but the poor and illiterate people seem to be completely confused. Why don’t the authorities release photos, names of the participants and their feedback to the media?

[6] If the Collector claims in the Press Release dated 9.6.2012 that “exercise of counter measures were carried out in three stages, as prescribed in the Emergency Plan” how come the Press Release does not even list the “three stages”? Is it because the authorities want to hide the stages from the larger public and keep us all in continued ignorance and avoid any further debate?

[7] If “the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) Manual of KKNPP-1&2 has been reviewed/concurred/approved as appropriate by AERB and District Authorities…in June 2011” (according to Mr. R. Bhattacharya of AERB in his letter No. AERB/SEC/46/2012/1643 dated April 17, 2012) why did the Collector, Dr. R. Selvaraj, IAS, not give us a copy of the emergency manual when Dr. S. P. Udayakumar of PMANE applied for it under RTI on April 2, 2012? Why did the Collector’s PA (General) forward that RTI request to the Public Information Officer at KKNPP, Koodankulam for suitable reply? Why haven’t we received a copy of the Manual even after writing to the Assistant Public Information Officer, KKNPP?

[8] According to the Collector’s Press Release, the “exercise was observed by the representatives from AERB, NPCIL HQ and other officials of NPCIL.” Why were the local public representatives such as MP, MLA, local civil society members, prominent citizens and the local media not invited? Why was the whole exercise a quick and hush-hush affair that lasted only for an hour?

[9] Do nuclear disasters affect a large area around the plant or just one or two specific villages? How come the exercise is carried out in an isolated village and not throughout the project affected area?

Our dear Fellow Tamils and Malayalis, PMANE wishes you, your children and grandchildren all the very best with your future. May God/Nature/Great Spirit bless you and protect you! We don’t know what else to say (Or come and join the struggle).

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073

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