It was almost a quarter of a century ago that the agreement for the plant was signed by the then Prime Minister Rajeeve Gandhi and the then soviet Union on November 20,1988. It took nearly a quarter of a century to finish its first stage due to problems in the Soviet union and minor ones in India.Though the initial estimate was to produce 2000 M.W electricity, India renegotiated to build 4 additional reactors and on completion of the work on all reactors the capacity of the plant can reach 9200 M W which is impressive. If the present protest was during the period of negotiation with the Soviet Union the project would have been abandoned. There were no agitators then except for some voices from some environmentalists.
The unknown fishing village, Koodankulam, situated 20 Kms away from Kanyakumari in the Tirunelveli District, has now become a township as a result of the work on the plant over a long period, automatically making it a less ideal place for a nuclear plant. The place was selected as it is considered a region with least seismic activities.
Now more than two Billion Dollars have been spent for development of the site and building the plant. The buildings, machineries, and all other materials have been put in place. The plant is built on a small hill top so that the Tsunami Waves are unlikely to touch it, unlike the Fakushima plant in Japan which was vulnerably close on the sea front. In addition to that, the plant is built adopting all modern safety measures and experts have approved its safety, including former President of India Sri.A.P.J.Abdul kalam.
The agitators pay no heed to the experts' opinion and they are determined to close the plant.There are, however, doubts whether it is a straightforward, spontaneous reaction of the local people or there are elements of vested interest groups behind the agitation. A Union Minister himself has said that foreign N G O groups are funding the agitation. Why should the N G Os stand against the interest of a Nation, especially when there are numerous Nuclear Plants operating in many countries ?
One suggestion is that the Scandinavian and U S based N G Os are behind it and that they oppose the project as it was built with the cooperation of Russia. However the logic in it, is not also quite clear as in this modern era, all nations do business in a live and let live policy and why should some N G O groups get worked up in the matter ? However the fact remains that the agitators are receiving foreign Funds to run the protest the reasons or motives of which are not clear though. So any amount of expert advise is not going to do any good on the agitators.The simple logic is that once they stop protests the flow of funds will dry up too and who will want to lose money?
On the part of the Government, it is too late to go back and rethink whether nuclear energy need be generated or not from Koodankulam. It will also be politically suicidal for the Government to abandon the project succumbing to the pressure when the Tamil Nadu is facing acute shortage of electricity.
The left parties of India have not joined in the agitation partly because it is a project built in cooperation with Russian Government and partly to avoid a move unpopular in Tamil Nadu. However Sri V.S.Achutanandan who always chose uncharted courses, has shown sympathy with the agitators and went as far as the border of Tamil Nadu. In doing so he was unwittingly joining and supporting western elements he is dead against.
Now the million Dollar question is how to contain the agitation. It is a sensitive issue with ramifications on the electoral front also. The agitators are mostly from converted Christian community and they have vote-banks in several Districts of Tamil Nadu. It has a Roman Catholic angle too. On the whole the agitators are a complex concoction of many elements.
Jayalalitha, chief Minister of Tamil Nadu is really up against a complex enemy.
It is also to be mentioned that the most suitable source of electricity for Tamil Nadu seems to be solar energy as the State receives sun light round the year.
Image from Google