Welcoming the decision of the Tamil Nadu government to go ahead with the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP), former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said: “I visualise that Kudankulam will be known to the world in another 10 years from now as the greatest nuclear power complex in a single area.” He said the Central and State governments could do a lot to bring prosperity to the region and he had already given a road map for the same.
Mr. Kalam, who played a crucial role in breaking the ice between the Centre and the State during the impasse over the project by visiting the site, co-authoring an article in The Hindu and presenting a detailed plan for the development of the region, suggested that a nuclear safety institute could be set up at Kudankulam, to take up research on nuclear power plants located in coastal areas around the world to provide vital feedback on sensitive issues.
Answering questions from The Hindu by email, the former President said universities in Tirunelveli could introduce courses in nuclear power and allied subjects...Excerpts from the interview Mr. Kalam gave to S. Vijay Kumar.
Q: The Government of Tamil Nadu has finally cleared the way for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). Since you strongly advocated that the plant be commissioned, what is your reaction?
A: Nuclear power is very important for meeting our energy independence programme, which calls for progressive reduction of the use of fossil fuel, which is detrimental to our environment. I visualise Kudankulam area will be known to the world in another 10 years from now as the greatest nuclear power complex in a single area. Simultaneously, it is essential for Tamil Nadu and the nation to make progress in electricity generation through wind power and solar power in different parts of the country.
Q: A special package of Rs. 500 crore has been rolled out for the development of local people. What kind of development would you suggest and would you reiterate your suggestion to the Prime Minister to allocate funds (special package) under the 11th plan to the KKNPP area?
A: I have already discussed a road map. Definitely the State government and the Central government have all the capacity to bring prosperity and peace for the people of Kudankulam.
Q: You visited the KKNPP site and explained to the people on the safety of the plant. Do you think scientists and other officials in the KKNPP should have some kind of community interaction to boost the confidence of the local people?
A: I have a suggestion. A nuclear safety institute can be created in the Kudankulam area for continuous research on the safety aspects of coast-based nuclear power plants in the country and abroad. The world has today 546 nuclear plants generating electricity. Their experience is being continuously researched and feedback should be provided to all. Nuclear scientists have to interact with the people of the nation and academic institutions continuously to update nuclear power generation technology and safety.
Q: What is your message to those protesting against the concept of nuclear power in general and the KKNPP in particular?
A: We should remember that there are nations which meet more than 30 to 60% of their power requirements through the nuclear power system. Their experiences have been absorbed in our nuclear power programmes. People of Kudankulam area are fortunate to have two nuclear power plants with total 2000 MW capacity and a potential to increase this capacity, which will lead to the prosperity of the entire Tirunelveli and its neighbouring region.
Q: How do you think the KKNPP can help the youth of Tirunelveli in their career?
A: I visualise universities in Tirunelveli district start a graduate programme in nuclear power science, nuclear power safety and nuclear power grid transmission. I also suggest creation of an institution for providing special skills in nuclear technology so that they will become available for all nuclear power plants in the country.