After the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra, it is now the turn of the 2,000-MWe Kudankulam atomic plant in Tamil Nadu to run into serious opposition.

As protests by local residents and activists intensified, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Monday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order the halting of the project until concerns and fears about the plant's safety were addressed.

Hours later, Dr. Singh called up Ms. Jayalalithaa and informed her that he was deputing Minister of State in his office V. Narayanasamy to meet the protesters and allay their apprehensions. Over a 100 protesters have been on a fast for the last nine days, voicing fears about the safety of the plant, especially in the light of the Fukushima radiation crisis in Japan in March.

In a letter, the Chief Minister accused the Union government of “abdicating its responsibilities.” She said she would send an all-party delegation, led by Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam along with representatives of the people, to the Prime Minister. She wanted Dr. Singh to send competent authorities to hold discussions with the Kudankulam people and convince them to their satisfaction.

“The last few days have been very agonising for the people of Kudankulam as they are under great apprehension in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and other similar calamities reported in the press. It is only natural that the people living here fear for the safety of their families and for themselves,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said.

In a statement, she appealed to the protesters to give up their fast.

Only a few days ago, she said there was no need for any apprehension as adequate safety measures were in place. However, the agitation has since gained much political support and the number of protesters has swelled. Social activist Medha Patkar met them at Idinthakarai in Tirunelveli district on Monday.

Responding to the Chief Minister's appeal, coordinator of the protest S.P. Udhayakumar said any decision on calling off the agitation would be made only after consulting leaders of various organisations involved in it.