‘Experts will address safety concerns'

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday promised to set up an expert group to address the “legitimate concerns” of those protesting the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, but he has also clearly indicated that the project would go forward.

Dr. Singh, who met a multi-party delegation from Tamil Nadu as well as activists and citizen representatives, assured them that “the government will not compromise on safety in the pursuit of our nuclear energy programme.”

He also clarified that the plant was not yet operationalised and no nuclear processes had begun.

However, in an earlier letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, responding to her letter dated September 19, Dr. Singh made it clear that the project would ultimately start generating nuclear power.

“Nuclear energy is one option to enhance our energy security. The Central government will ensure that this is pursued with full regard to the safety, livelihood and security of the people,” he said. “I count on your support in ensuring the timely implementation of the Kudankulam Project.”

Thousands of fishermen and other residents of the area around Kudankulam have been agitating against the plant for months, raising concerns about safety, health risks and the impact on fishing.

After a 12-day fast by protesters last month, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet passed a resolution urging the Centre to halt work on the project until the fears of the local population were allayed.

Noting that “understandable concerns” have been expressed about nuclear safety in the wake of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant following an earthquake and tsunami, the Prime Minister said the Centre ordered technical reviews of the safety systems of all Indian nuclear plants, including Kudankulam. All recommendations were being implemented, he added.