Tension prevailed here for about five hours on Sunday as the police thwarted a bid by about 3,000 agitators to lay siege to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site to protest fuel-loading in the reactor.

Earlier in the day, the protesters, led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy convener, S.P. Udayakumar, surprised the police, who deployed about 4,000 personnel, marched towards the site through the shore around noon.

No personnel were deployed on the route as the police had expected them to go by Thomas Mandapam or Vairaavikinaru to reach the site.

When the protesters, some of them holding white flags, reached Sengalani Odai, 1.5 km from the reactor site, the personnel, present about 2 km away, rushed to the spot.

Tirunelveli Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari, who reached there in 15 minutes, held talks with the agitators at Periyamulli on the beach.

He told them that they had no right to organise illegal demonstrations while they were free to challenge the Madras High Court’s order on fuel-loading. “You can’t just breach the prohibitory orders promulgated here,” he told them.

Subsequently, attempts by Collector R. Selvaraj and Inspector-General of Police (South Zone) Rajesh Das to pacify the protesters went in vain.

While the protesters squatted on the beach and continued their agitation, police stayed put there to stall their advancing further. Even a fleet of government buses stationed off the beach for transporting the protesters in case of their arrest was withdrawn by the evening.

Police did not arrest anyone as “our target is not the innocent women and children, who have been compelled to join today’s agitation, and we want to arrest only those who organise the agitations against the KKNPP in violation of the prohibitory orders,” Mr Das said.

Police sources said the “operation” might resume on Monday.

Meanwhile, Dr. Udayakumar told reporters that the activists would withdraw the agitation provided Chief Minister Jayalalithaa gave them an assurance that fuel-loading would be suspended.