Two of the country's top nuclear power experts on Monday hinted that the anti-Kudankulam nuclear power plant agitation was aimed at scuttling India's three-stage nuclear power programme.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited's Chairman and Managing Director S.K. Jain and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee said that even after all the queries on safety, quality, health and other aspects were answered by experts, people were asking questions about reprocessing of fuel which had nothing to do with the Kudankulam plant. They were talking to journalists on the sidelines of an international conference on ‘Characterisation and Quality Control of Nuclear Fuels (CQCNF-2012)' here.

Dr. Jain said the construction at Kudankulam had been going on smoothly in harmony with local neighbourhood since March 31, 2002. Post-Fukushima almost everything was settled in Kudankulam after experts made submissions. “How come Fukushima resurfaced in September? The agitation started with fears about safety and now people are talking about ‘no nuclear power.'”

In the past few weeks there was no word about nuclear safety. Questions were about reprocessing and the second stage (of the nuclear programme) where plutonium would be produced for Fast Breeder Reactor and that was “under attack.” Stating that India wanted to be world leader in taking nuclear technology to the thorium reactor, he said so far nuclear technology had been the domain of a few rich countries.

He said what was there in Kudankulam today was the so-called international green activists and lobbyists, with of course some elements of local politics.

Mr. Banerjee said that from safety the questions were now diverted to a totally different area of reprocessing of spent fuel while Kudankulam was not going to have a reprocessing plant.

He said the schedule of making operational the first and second units of 1,000 MW was not in their hands as they were able to take inside the plant only 80 people in two shifts while the requirement was 3,000. Only for maintenance, 500 people were required.

The Tamil Nadu government was requested to facilitate entry of NPCIL personnel into the plant and make it ready for commissioning. Within two months of the zero date, the plant would be ready for loading the fuel. “We didn't get any reply so far [from the State government],” he said.

On plans to augment nuclear power, he said that it was proposed to increase nuclear power generation to 63,000 MW by 2032 with about 35,000-40,000 MW of that capacity through imported reactors.

Dr. Jain said sites were being identified for establishing 20 nuclear power reactors in the next five years at a cost of Rs. 3 lakh crore. NPCIL was in talks with various financial institutions as also the LIC for part financing the investments for new reactors.

Plant at Kovvada

Replying to a question on the setting up of nuclear power plant at Kovvada in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, he said local people's fears had been allayed after NPCIL launched outreach activities. He said the NPCIL wanted to showcase Kovvada as a model of inclusive growth.