The top court will decide on a batch of petitions challenging a Madras High Court order in August last year that, while asking India's nuclear watchdog to ensure that necessary safeguards were complied with, gave the go-ahead for the loading of fuel in the plant.
The petitioners oppose the plant's operationalisation, arguing that 11 of the 17 additional safety measures prescribed by a government task force had not been put in place. The Centre has rebutted the argument, claiming those are just enhanced safety features that would be implemented in due course.
The Supreme Court had reserved its verdict on the matter on December 6 last year.
The judgement comes close on the heels of the detection of four faulty valves in the first reactor unit of the plant which were later replaced. Some Russian officials were also arrested recently over alleged corruption in sourcing sub-standard materials from some Russian nuclear plants.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is setting up the power project in Kudankulam, around 650 kilometres south OF Chennai, with two Russian-made, 1,000-MW nuclear reactors.
Locals and activists have been agitating for the last two years against the plant, demanding closure of the plant. Idinthakarai, which is just three kilometres away from the plant complex, has served as the Ground Zero of the protests.
The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which has been spearheading the anti-Kudankulam campaign, has cited the Fukushima disaster in Japan, triggered by a massive tsunami, to draw parallels about the dangers of a nuclear plant. It has also raised various questions pertaining to the disposal of nuclear waste, besides other issues linked to the plant.
Fishermen, who form the majority of the population staying in the plant's vicinity, are also worried that the nuclear plant will adversely affect marine life and hence, their livelihood.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who initially supported the cause of the anti-Kudankulam movement, later did a U-turn - after two committees gave their nod - citing that the project could bring relief to the state which is reeling under a severe power shortage.
The NPCIL, which operates the plant, has refuted all allegations, insisting that the plant is safe and is "fully equipped to withstand" Fukushima-type incidents.