Kudankulam: Even as protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant spread to Chennai today and police arrested members of different parties and organizations for blocking traffic during their protests, the loading of fuel in the reactors to start the nuclear power plant has been challenged in Supreme Court.
The Madras High Court had cleared the loading of fuel last week. A petition in Supreme Court has challenged this order and will be argued by Prashant Bhushan. The petition says that the High Court gave its clearance without safety features that the government's own agencies had recommended being in place. A task force had asked for 17 safety features, but the plant was declared safe to commission.
The petition also says that the government has indemnified the Russian makers of the reactors from any liability in case of an accident. This, the petition has said, goes against the Supreme Court's own ruling in the matter.
Meanwhile, in the areas adjoining the nuclear plant, nearly 10,000 men, women and children spent the night in the open in the village of Idinthakarai, which has served as the epicentre of the movement against the atomic power project.
Yesterday, one man was killed and many others jumped into the sea in this part of coastal Tamil Nadu when the police tear-gassed demonstrators to prevent them for marching to the Kudankulam nuclear plant.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has appealed to people to stay calm. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde yesterday said that the protests are being fuelled by foreign NGOs, an allegation first levelled by the Prime Minister in February.
The night was tense in Idinthakari where protestors are now on a hunger strike, demanding that the plant be shut down. Some villagers claimed that the police vandalized a local church, where an idol of Mary was found broken. The police say its men did not enter the church.
Around 4,000 security personnel, including Rapid Action Force, have been deployed in the area.
The campaign against the atomic project has been led by activist S P Udhayakumar who heads the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy. The movement has intensified this week after authorities said they were ready to load fuel into the first nuclear reactor at the plant, the final step before it starts generating power.
Villagers and fishermen have refused government assurances that the plant meets international safety standards and will be able to withstand natural disasters. Activists cite the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in Japan last year to highlight concerns about radiation leaks should a tsunami hit the area.