A fact-finding team of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has concluded that the no offsite emergency preparedness exercise was held for the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), and that the Tirunelveli district administration’s claim that such a drill was successfully done was untrue.

PUCL national secretary V. Suresh told a press conference here on Saturday that what the district authorities conducted in the name of an emergency preparedness exercise at Nakkaneri, a hamlet seven km from KKNPP on June 9, comprising three stages, was mere eyewash. These exercises are part of the mandatory norms to be followed before the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) permits the loading of fuel into the reactor.

The district administration sent a press statement that offsite emergency training exercise was completed successfully in three stages. As news reports countered this assertion, the PUCL sent a fact-finding team which found it to be a lie, he said. The Centre and State governments should declare the exercise null and void, he demanded.

The team’s leader and general secretary, PUCL, TN and Puducherry S. Balamurugan said they interviewed 22 villagers, who said such an exercise never took place. According to the villagers, about 40 police personnel came in four vans at 9 am on June 9 at the junction leading to the hamlet. They were involved in vehicle-check till about 1.00 pm and left, he said. About 15 villagers have also signed affidavits stating that no such exercise took place.

When contacted, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) officials said they only provided logistic support to the district administration, Mr. Balamurugan said. Two officials who were involved in the exercise, Cheranmadevi sub-collector and a tahsildar refused to talk, and the district collector refused to even meet the team, he said.

The PUCL demanded that the district administration place in the public domain the emergency preparedness plan. In future, offsite emergency exercises in the area should be fair and open, Mr. Suresh said.

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