Cautioning against keeping “high-investment facilities” idle, the former Atomic Energy Commission chief, M. R. Srinivasan, has sought a vigorous public relations push to counter the “misinformation campaign” against the Kudankulam 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,” Mr. Srinivasan told PTI.
But he said some people traditionally opposed to nuclear energy keep saying that the lives of people around nuclear reactors would be in danger.
He said there are rumours that more land would be acquired displacing people and livelihood of the local fishing community would be affected in 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.”
Mr. Srinivasan pointed out that fishing activity had been going on without impediment along the coastal nuclear sites of Tarapur and Kalpakkam, and the atomic facilities there had 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 that the anti-nuclear lobby was also behind the protests in Kudankulam, Mr. Srinivasan said there was an organised anti-nuclear sentiment in certain advanced parts of the world, including Germany and Australia, especially after the “Fukushima event.”
But he also stressed that France continued to operate its nuclear reactors as also are Korea and Russia, whereas China is building them at a furious pace. “So, we have to look at it from totality.”
He said that unlike Jaitapur in Maharashtra (where there are similar protests against the nuclear plant), where plants were yet to be built, in Kudankulam one reactor was nearly ready to start and another likely to start next year.
Noting the huge investment that had gone into the Kudankulam project, he said, “We can't make investment and allow things to remain idle... 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.”
Mr. 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 is beginning to import coal, which is two to 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, “the cost of solar and wind power is high.”
“There is shortage of electricity in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and everywhere, this (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.”