The agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear project in Tamil Nadu could soon settle down as most of the safety issues raised by the agitators have been addressed by the expert committee, said Dr Srikumar Banerjee, Secretary to the Department of Atomic Energy. He was talking on the sidelines of a seminar on the utilisation of thorium.

The Centre has set up a multi-disciplinary expert committee consisting of independent experts from nuclear sciences, geology and oceanography, which is interacting with officials of the Tamil Nadu Government and representatives of the anti-Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project movement.

Meetings with villagers

Following the nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan on March 11, villagers surrounding the Koodankulam plant, along with anti-nuclear activists, have been agitating against the plant.

Dr Banerjee said the committee had already conducted two meetings with the representatives and a third meeting would be held on December 15, “The agitators questions have all been answered, and we hope some breakthrough will happen soon. It is difficult to give an exact date,” he said.

Simultaneously, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) is also planning a number of welfare measures for the villagers. These include building of boat jetties and cold storage facilities for the fishermen. These welfare activities are a part of the Corporation's corporate social responsibility schemes, Dr Banerjee said.

Earthquake fears

A senior member of the expert committee told Business Line that the committee will hold internal discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday at Kanyakumari and meet the representatives the following day at Tirunelveli. Most of the queries raised by the representatives relating to the geology of the Koodankulam region and possibility of earthquakes have already been answered satisfactorily by the committee.

“The anti-Koodankulam activists have also raised the issue of danger to the plant from a tsunami, especially one that may be triggered by a sea-floor collapse. They fear that the ‘Colombo Slump', a geological formation in the seas around Sri Lanka, could cave in and activate a tsunami. These fears would be put to rest on Thursday,” the committee member said.

Till date, the NPCIL has invested over Rs 12,000 crore in developing the Koodankulam plant. The first unit of 1,000 MW is ready, while 95 per cent of the construction of the second unit has also been completed.

Jaitapur project

Dr Banerjee said that, in the wake of the Fukushima accident, the French nuclear regulatory authorities have carried out a review of Areva's reactor designs for the Jaitapur project. Their final report would be shared with the Department of Atomic Energy by January 2012.

French nuclear giant Areva is to supply its Evolutionary Pressurised Reactors for the 10,000 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project.

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