The agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has fizzled out as the Tamil Nadu government gave the green signal for the commissioning of the first unit of the 2X1000 MW power plant.
“Immediate steps will be taken for the speedy commissioning of the nuclear power plant at Kudankulam nuclear power plant,” Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said in a statement issued at the end of the cabinet meeting held here on Monday.
Kasinath Balaji, project director told DNA that he received the ‘all-clear’ signal from the state administration by evening. “We are busy mobilising our man power. By tomorrow we will move into the plant and resume the works for the early commissioning of the plant,” said Balaji.
A senior official of the Department of Atomic Energy said the plant would be commissioned in three months.
Even as the cabinet was meeting at Fort Saint George in Chennai, a pose of policemen under the supervision of S George, the additional director general of police (law and order) took into preventive custody nine volunteers of the Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy from Koodankulam, 650 km from the state capital. George, a mechanical engineer-turned-IPS officer had inspected Kudankulam last week as a prelude to the crackdown on the antinuclear brigade funded by various Non Government Organisations.
The PMANE had launched an agitation against the nuclear power plant once the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd had completed 99% of the works.
The site was under the siege of the PMANE volunteers and they did not allow the engineers to enter the plant site. This delayed the commissioning of the plant which was scheduled for commissioning in 2011 October.
Though both the expert committees appointed by the Central and State governments found the plant safe and foolproof, the anti-nuclear activists did not budge and the works came to a standstill.
Tamil Nadu is under the grip of a severe power crisis with a peak hour deficit of 4000 MW. The government has declared a power holiday for industrial units.
Other than Chennai, all districts undergo load shedding ranging from six to eight hours a day. The capital city itself goes without power for two hours daily.
Though the general perception was that the Jayalalithaa regime would get cracking once the local body elections to the State were over, the Shankarankoil MLA who belonged to the AIADMK died necessitating a bye poll.
Officials in the State administration had told this newspaper that Jayalalithaa would address the Kudankulam issue only after the by poll since Kudankulam was near to Shankarankoil. The by poll was held on Sunday.
“The agitation has come to an end for all practical purposes. Local residents lost interest in the agitation because of the severe power shortage and load shedding. Now what remains to be seen is when the PMANE leaders would call off the agitation,” said a senior intelligence official who had told this newspaper that the state administration would launch a crack down on the agitators after the by poll.
The Tamil Nadu government also announced the launching of Rs500 crore development work in Kudankulam as part of the Provision of Urban Facilities in Rural Areas (PURA) as suggested by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who had inspected the Kudankulam plant and the safety system.