Ending the impasse over the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNNP), the Tamil Nadu Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, on Monday resolved to take steps for the early commissioning of the plant.

The Cabinet also decided that a Rs.500-crore package of development works should be taken up in Kudankulam, having regard to the local fishermen's welfare. Announcing the decisions after an hour-long meeting, the Chief Minister, in a statement, called upon all to cooperate with the government.

The decision came as a relief to a large section of people, particularly trade and industry, who are bearing the brunt of a power crisis, but drew adverse comments from activists and parties opposed to nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, nine persons, including two members of the anti-KKNNP struggle committee S. Sivasubramanian and K. Rajalingam, were arrested near the project site at 12.45 p.m. Though the Kudankulam parish priest, Thatheus Rajan, was also present, he was not arrested.

Even in the early hours, reports trickled in that the police force was being reinforced in Kudankulam. About 3,000 personnel mobilised for the Sankarankoil by-election were moved to the area immediately after polling was over on Sunday.

After a gap of over six months, officials of the KKNPP were allowed by the Tirunelveli district administration to enter the project site. One of them said a detailed study had to be done to know the condition of the equipment and machinery.

Ms. Jayalalithaa explained the basis for the government decision: reports of the Experts Group, constituted by the Centre in October; the State government's Experts Committee; and the petitions given by the protesters were exhaustively scrutinised. There was no possibility of the occurrence of an earthquake or tsunami, and anyway the plant had the best safety features.

(With inputs from P. Sudhakar in Tirunelveli and R. Srikanth in Chennai)