Kudankulam: Protesters near the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu reportedly jumped into the sea after the police fired tear gas in an attempt to control the large demonstration. In neighbouring Tuticorin district, one person was reportedly killed when police fired into a crowd of fishermen in who were protesting against the nuclear plant.
Reacting to the protests, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said today,
"Foreign NGOs are supporting the Kudankulam protests. Nuclear energy is
clean energy." In February, the Prime Minister too had blamed foreign
NGOs for inciting and funding the Kudankulam protests.
Today, fuel was to be loaded in the first of two 1,000 megawatt reactors, enabling it to start producing power.
Nearly 1,000 people were heading to the plant by marching along the seashore in the Tirunelveli district, a route that surprised the police. The tear gas was fired when the protesters were just half a kilometre from the controversial plant which has been opposed by villagers and fishermen who remain unconvinced by assurances from experts and the government about security measures.
Defying prohibitory orders, the protesters refused to disperse from the sea shores, 500 metres away from the Kudankulam Nuclear Power project, despite repeated pleas by top police and district officials. Activists have cited the Fukushima disaster in Japan, triggered by a tsunami last year, to draw parallels about the dangers of a nuclear plant in this coastal part of India.
So far, the village of Idinthakarai had served as the base camp and protest site for the activists and villagers. The campaign has been led by SP Udhayakumar who heads the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy. The villagers and activists want the government to immediately close the plant.
Mr Udhayakumar was warned yesterday that he would be arrested along with many others if he went ahead with today's rally. 5000 policemen have been posted around the plant.
Commissioning the first unit at the atomic plant was cleared by a recent inspection conducted by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). After intense protests last year, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote to the PM to suspend all operations at the atomic project. However, after experts said that the plant has world-class safety features, she did a U-turn and has since been demanding that all the power generated by Kudankulam must be made available for Tamil Nadu.
During the peak of the protests last year, engineers and scientists had to be given police escorts to enter the Indo-Russian plant.
(With inputs from Agencies)
Story first published:
September 10, 2012 12:01 IST