Ex-AEC Chief Against Scrapping Kundankulam Project

Ex-AEC Chief Against Scrapping Kundankulam Project
Cautioning against keeping "high-investment facilities" idle, former Atomic Energy Commission chief M R Srinivasan has sought a vigorous public relations push to counter the "misinformation campaign" against the Kundankulam Nuclear Project.

Noting that there is some amount of misunderstanding in the minds of the people protesting against the project after the Fukushima accident in Japan, he said, "Safety is not in anyway compromised."

"The Atomic Energy Department, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board have done extensive rechecks and they are satisfied that the circumstances that led to the Fukushima accident, are not at all likely to happen in Kudankulam," Srinivasan told PTI.

But he said some people who are traditionally opposed to nuclear energy keep saying that lives would be in danger around nuclear reactors.

He said there are rumours doing the rounds that more land would be acquired displacing people and livelihood of the local fishing community would be affected vis-à-vis Kudankulam.

"These are not true at all. They do not intend to take any more land even when they want to put up extra units."

Srinivasan pointed out that fishing activity is going on without impediment in coastal nuclear sites of Tarapur and Kalpakkam, and the atomic facilities there have made positive impact on the local economy.

"There is a certain degree of misinformation campaign (in Kudankulam).In my opinion that has to be neutralised with more information and dialogue between the NPCIL and the Atomic Energy Department on the one hand and the public and their leadership on the other..," he said.

Asked if he thought anti-nuclear lobby also behind the protests in Kudankulam, Srinivasan said there is an organised anti-nuclear sentiment in certain advanced parts of the world including in Germany and Australia, and after the "Fukushima event", it has strengthened that kind of a feeling.

But he also stressed that France is continuing to operate its nuclear reactors, as also Korea and Russia, whereas China is building them at a furious pace.

"So, we have to look at it from totality."

He said unlike Jaitapur in Maharashtra (where also there are protests against the nuclear plan), where they are yet to be built, in Kudankulam one reactor is nearly ready to start and another is likely to start next year.

Noting that huge investment has gone in to build Kudankulam project, he said: "We can’t make investment and allow things to remain idle."

"After all, these are high investment facilities. If you don’t start running them when they are ready to go, (you are) carrying a big unproductive investment. So, it’s something that we should be concerned about. It’s the country’s money. We should be concerned."

Srinivasan agreed that nuclear power is "inevitable" for India and it has no other option.

India is facing shortage of coal even to run coal-fired (thermal) stations and it’s beginning to import coal, which is two-three times more expensive than the one available in the domestic market.

"That again will push up electricity cost.Gas prices are linked to petroleum price, which is also going up," he said, adding, cost of solar and wind power is high.

He expressed hope that the protests against the Kudankulam project would blow over.

"The first unit is ready to start in a few weeks," Srinivasan said.

"There is a lot of shortage of electricity in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and everywhere, and this (the project) would be a great boon.We hope that in the next few days, some degree of sense will return and the people can be satisfied."

Srinivasan said more public relations are needed to win over the confidence of people.

"I think it will be done. Right now, there is a certain degree of organised concern.But I think it will be overcome with a little bit of more explaining and taking people into confidence."
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