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Tuesday 8 November 2011

Kalam labels N-plant safe, sceptics wary

Kalam labels N-plant safe, sceptics wary
Chennai, Nov. 6: Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam today said the Kudankulam nuclear plant was absolutely safe but failed to convince those agitating against the commissioning of the facility, located 650km from here.
Kalam, who visited the project site this morning, said he had not come to play mediator. But the protesters argued that Kalam’s decision to meet only the plant officials and not villagers’ representatives proved he had come merely to issue a certificate to the nuclear facility.
“Twelve lakh people live in the nuclear fallout area, but Kalam has met just 40 people who are intent on starting the plant unmindful of the safety of these people,” said S.P. Udhayakumar, the protesters’ leader.
“Also, Kalam has only repeated what the officials have been saying. Neither he nor the scientists have answered our question why Russia has stopped using the technology employed at Kudankulam. Similarly, they have been silent on the issue of nuclear waste,” Udhayakumar said at Indinthakarai village, where the agitators are camping.
The persistent agitation by the villagers, led by anti-nuclear groups, has brought the fate of the Rs 1,336-crore, 2,000MW plant under a cloud. The plant managers have put off its commissioning, which was due in December.
The Centre has appointed a 15-member committee to reassure the villagers about the plant’s safety features. It had also requested Kalam, a votary of nuclear power and weapons, to affirm the safety of the plant. The government was looking to exploit the popularity that the former President, a Tamil, enjoys among the masses.
Kalam today spent three hours inspecting the plant and being briefed on its various features.
“He asked many questions about safety. He wanted to know how we can be sure that a disaster like Chernobyl (Russia) or Fukushima (Japan) would not happen here,” station director R.S. Sundar said.
“We explained that the technology to be used here is much more advanced, and so are the safety features.”
Later, Kalam told the media the plant had put in place all the necessary safety features.
He cited the mechanism to ensure automatic cooling of the plant in the event of a power cut followed by a generator failure, the double-wall protection, structural safety and the containers to store the 25 per cent residual fuel. He allayed the radiation fears too.
“Also, there is no need to worry about the safety aspect of the plant as it is in a low-intensity seismic zone. There is also no threat of a tsunami as the plant is 1,300km from the seismic centre point and is 13.5 metres above the sea level,” Kalam said.
Udhayakumar, however, wondered if the former scientific adviser would have sold the same line in Kerala or Bengal in favour of establishing nuclear plants there.
“We are neither impressed nor convinced by Kalam’s words since his intention is well known, as illustrated by his two-page article in today’s The Hindu advocating nuclear power as the future energy source,” Udhayakumar fumed.

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