Koodankulam: Sri Lanka Condemned to be in a Nuclear Neighbourhood?

Sulochana Ramiah Mohan

Sulochana Ramiah Mohan is a senior Journalist at Lakbimanews (an independent English newspaper) of Sri Lanka. She is the Deputy Business Editor and writes on various contemporary topics.Courtesy:



Courtesy: Lakbimanews

Sri Lanka is not in a position to claim compensation if a nuclear disaster occurs in South India and would also be unable to do anything in the event a nuclear accident occurs in the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), just 240 km away from Sri Lanka, a government minister said. Meanwhile, several anti-nuclear movements are prevailing upon the Government of India to abandon the entire project in South India.

Sri Lanka’s stand
Minister of Power and Energy Champika Ranawaka who is preparing to participate at the Vienna Nuclear Convention that is to be held soon, stated that they cannot bring up the negative issues of KNPP in Vienna. “We cannot talk about compensation in the event of KNPP causing destruction to Sri Lanka. As per the convention, there is no clause for such compensation.”

He said, “But there are concerns mainly in the North and Northwestern regions as there could be an adverse impact if a nuclear leak occurs. We will take steps to protect the people of that area. We will coordinate with the Indian authorities and the MoU will evolve around this. They have assured that technically, no disaster will happen.”
“We are not Indians to protest,” he said, adding that, “it’s India’s internal problem and we cannot give our views based on these issues.”

Protest in South India

India’s historic anti-nuclear struggle against a nuclear power plant took a violent turn last week when more than 2000 villagers and fisher folk, including women and children, entered the sea and occupied it. The protestors ended their 48-hour fast in the Idinthakarai village in the Tirunelveli district after the police used teargas, shells and batons to disperse crowds, and the police also conducted a house-to-house search, leaving an agitator dead due to  police firing.
A leading anti-nuclear struggle committees, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), in an email to LAKBIMAnEWS said that the plant will bring destruction to the entire nation and to its neighbouring countries.
In a recent petition to the government, PMANE stated that “the ruling AIADMK tries to create the impression that they are working for the Tamil people but are actually functioning with a self-serving agenda. Even though the capacity factor of the Indian nuclear power plant is hardly 40 per cent, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu has been demanding 2,000 MW from s Chief Minister Jayalalitha has been demanding the expulsion of Sri Lankan soldiers and football players from India but she is not dealing with the serious and life-oriented issues that jeopardize the Tamil people’s well-being, our natural resources and the future.”
Adding to the ongoing struggle, a petition also has been filed in the Supreme Court to stop fuel loading at the plant.

Safety steps not implemented

PMANE says the Indian government should not go ahead with the loading of the fuel rods till 17 safety steps recommended by the expert committee are implemented. But the Tamil Nadu Supreme Court declined to put the project on hold, and would hear the plea seeking to restrain the Central Government on September 20.

Advocate and social activist Prashant Bhushan, presenting the issue before the bench had told the Court last week that the expert committee was set up after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident in Japan, to suggest safety steps to ward off any such incident in the future.
Bhushan pleaded that out of 17 safety steps recommended by the expert committee only six have been put in place and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) will require six months to two years to implement the remaining 11.

Vavuniya – close to KNPP

One of the activists, a leading journalist in South India, Nityanand Jayaraman, replying to the email as to when KNPP will be commissioned stated, “Only astrologers like Abdul Kalam would be able to predict when KNPP will be commissioned. I would say commissioning of the NP would be a function of technicalities.”

He also stated that Vavuniya is closer to KNPP than Chennai. If a nuclear disaster occurs at KNPP, Sri Lanka cannot escape the dire consequences but it would not face the same impact as the nearby areas. However, depending on the magnitude of the accident, Sri Lanka could be significantly affected. Radiation fallout and contamination of marine resources is almost certain. Radiation fallout on land and the resultant contamination of agricultural crops is a possibility. Increased rates of thyroid cancers and problems as a result of heightened levels of radioactive iodine and possibly cesium are likely.
The Site Evaluation Report (SER) for KNPP reveals that liquid waste from nuclear plants will “be diluted” and “discharged into the sea.” Most of these wastes are to seep into the Bay of Bengal and therefore to Sri Lankan waters too.

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