The decision to restart the works at the plant was taken as the state government was satisfied that the plant has special safety measures in place, and that the livelihood of local fishermen would not be affected. The Cabinet meeting also decided to allot 500 crore rupees for the special developmental schemes to in the Koodankulam area.
A Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at the State Secretariat in Chennai today discussed in detail the issues relating to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Following this, Ms Jayalalithaa issued a statement, in which she pointed out that an agreement was signed by India and Soviet Russia in 1988 to set up 2 Nuclear Power plants with a total capacity of 1000 Megawatts at Koodankulam in Tirunelveli district. On that basis, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited began its work in 2001. At a time when 99.5 percent of the works on the 1st unit, and 93 percent of the works on the 2nd unit were complete, doubts were raised by the Anti Nuclear activists at Idindhakarai in Tirunelveli district about the safety of the Nuclear power plants and protest fasts were held demanding the closure of the plants.
Ms Jayalalithaa recalled that keeping the welfare of the people as the priority, she had written to the Prime Minister on the 19th of September last, requesting him to halt further work on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, until the fears in the minds of the locals were allayed. She had also requested an appointment to submit a memorandum to him regarding the issue. Following her appeal, on the orders of the Prime Minister, the Minister of State in the PMO, V Narayanasamy had visited Idindhakarai and met the protesting people on the 20th of September last. The next day, he had met her at the state secretariat in Chennai and appraised her about the discussions he had with the people. On the same day, the representatives of the people who were against the nuclear power plants also met her and appealed to her to pass a cabinet resolution that the works on the Koodankulam Nuclear power plant should be halted until the apprehensions of the locals were allayed. Following this the Cabinet meeting chaired by her on the 22nd of September last passed a resolution requesting the Prime Minister and the Centre to halt works at the plant until the apprehensions of the people were allayed.
Following this, a delegation from Tamil Nadu led by Finance Minister O Paneerselvam met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the 7th of October last and submitted a memorandum containing the Tamil Nadu cabinet's resolution on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant issue and briefed him about the situation prevailing in the area. The Prime Minister assured the delegation that a joint committee comprising of the representatives of the centre, state and anti nuclear activists would be formed and the committee would in detail study the issue, Ms Jayalalithaa said.
The Union government then formed a 15 member expert committee. This committee held talks with 3 representatives of the anti nuclear committee, the Tirunelveli district collector and Supernitendent of Police who represented the state government, on the 8th and 18th of November and on the 15th of December last. During the talks, the anti-nuclear activist raised several questions for which the expert committee gave its explanations. It also released a report stating that the Koodankulam Power Plant was safe. The Expert Committee presented another report during its final meeting on the 31st of January. Only one of the three representatives of the Anti Nuclear Activists participated in the final meeting, Ms Jayalalithaa pointed out.
The report stated that the nuclear power plants at Koodankulam were built to international safety standards and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board had given its approval only after conducting safety reviews at various stages. Further, as the sea water released from the plant met the standards laid down by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, there would not be any specific side effects on marine animals.The report further said that the Nuclear Power Plant had been designed having all safety measures in place to safeguard the public, and the people need not fear about the safety aspects of the plant, Ms Jayalalithaa pointed out.
Against this backdrop, she had on the 4th of last month announced in the state assembly that an Expert Panel would be constituted by the State government as well to study the apprehensions of the locals and submit a report on the same. On that basis, a four member Expert Panel consisting of Professor M R Srinivasan, Former Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr D Arivoli, Professor, Department of Physics, Anna University, Dr S Inian, Professor and Director, Institute of Energy Studies, Anna University and L N Vijayaragavan, retired IAS officer was constituted on the 9th of last month, she recalled.
The panel visited Koodankulam and met the anti nuclear activists, and also analysed the fears of the locals. It also inspected the plant and submitted its report to the Chief Minister on the 28th of last month.
The expert panel set up by the Tamil Nadu government inspected the installations at the Power Plant including the area from were sea water would be taken, the desalination plant and the 6.3 megawatt diesel generator used to cool the Nuclear reactor and reviewed the safety aspects.
Later, it held a consultative meeting with 9 representatives of the anti-nuclear group at the Tirunelveli district collectorate. The panel had informed the representatives that the state government had constituted the panel with an aim to review the safety aspects of the plant and also to allay the fears in the minds of the locals about the plant and further informed them clearly that the state government had high respects for the concerns of the locals.
Ms Jayalalithaa listed out the observations made by the expert panel based on its review. It had noted that there was no history of occurrence a high magnitude earthquakes or tsunamis in the Koodankulam area. The government had taken measures to allay the fears of the people residing in and around Koodankulam. The Committee set up by the Union government had reviewed the technical and safety aspects of the plant in considerable depth and had furnished replies to all the questions raised by the representatives of the protesting people. This panel had also explained in detail the safety measures put in place after it inspected the plant.
For these reasons, the government could decide on taking steps to restart the works at the plant and generate power, the expert panel had recommended to the state government, Ms. Jayalalithaa added. The panel had further suggested that to uplift the living standards of the locals, the government could speak to the Atomic Energy Department to implement socio-economic schemes in the area. The panel had also recommended several schemes for the same.
The panel had suggested to the government to create awareness among the people of Koodankulam on the positive aspects of the plant, to set up facilities to repair mechanised boats used by local fishermen who otherwise had to go to Nagerkovil to get their boats repaired, to set up a cold storage facility to store the fish catch of the local fishermen and help them sell it at a good price, the Chief Minister noted.
It was against this backdrop that the Cabinet meeting was held today review in detail the report presented by the committee appointed by the Union government, the report submitted by the Expert Panel constituted by the state government and the representations of the anti nuclear activists.
The State government had come to know that there was no possibility of occurrence of a high magnitude earthquake or tsunami, and under all circumstances the plant was safe, and it had in it special safety measures, Ms Jayalalithaa said. The water released from the plant would in no way affect marine organisms, and so the livelihood of fishermen would not be affected. The state government had also taken into consideration the clarifications given by the Central Committee to the apprehensions of the locals on the safety of the plant. Taking all these aspects into consideration and that developmental schemes should be implemented without affecting the safety and livelihood of the public, the Tamil Nadu cabinet led by her had today passed a resolution to take immediate steps to restart the works at the plant, Ms Jayalalithaa stated.
Further, on the basis that special developmental schemes should be implemented in the Koodankulam area, the cabinet also decided to set up facilities in the area to repair mechanised boats, to build a cold storage facility to store fish, to develop infrastructure in area including roads, to build houses for the local people and to implement various other welfare schemes. It was also decided at the cabinet meeting that 500 crore rupees should be alloted for the developmental schemes, Ms Jayalalithaa stated.
The Chief Minister pointed out that as per the decision taken at the Cabinet Meeting, steps would be taken immediately to restart the works at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli District. She appealed to people belonging to all sections to support Tamil Nadu government's decision to restart the works at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant.