Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said there would be no compromise on safety in the pursuit of the nuclear programme and decided to set up a group of experts to satisfy the legitimate concerns of those opposed to the Koodankulam atomic power plant.
"Nothing will be done that would threaten the safety or livelihood of any section of society, particularly those living in the vicinity of a project," Singh told an delegation that met him with demands to stop work on the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project.
The first 1000 MWe nuclear power plant, which is set to be commissioned later this year, has run into a series of protests from locals who have voiced concerns over safety in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
A multi-party delegation from Tamil Nadu that included representatives from AIADMK, Congress, CPI and Samathuva Makkal Katchi and a local committee that led the fast met Singh and expressed concern on safety of the nuclear project.
The delegation, led by finance minister O Pannerselvam, had a 55-minute meeting with Singh during which a presentation on safety aspects of the nuclear plant was made by officials.
Singh told the delegation that the government will not compromise on safety in the pursuit of our nuclear energy programme, be it is in terms of technology, regulation, skilled manpower or emergency preparedness.
"The Central Government attaches the highest importance to ensuring that the use of nuclear energy in the country meets the highest safety standards," he said.
"The government fully shares the concerns of the people of the area and will take all steps to allay their fears," Singh told the delegation.
The delegation, which included public representatives from Koodankulam, raised certain technical issues during the presentation on the nuclear project.
"It was agreed that since the issues raised were technical in nature and required in-depth discussion, the Central Government would constitute a small group of experts to interact with the representatives of the people of the region to satisfy all their legitimate concerns," a PMO statement said.
The delegation was told that the project was yet to be operationalised and no nuclear processes have begun, it added.
While political parties and the government wanted work on the project to stop until the safety concerns of the locals were addressed, the representatives of the protesters gave a separate petition demanding its scrapping.
After the meeting, the two sides spoke in different voices bringing their differences to the fore further. Both sides had a meeting in the morning to iron out their differences after which they proceeded to the Prime Minister's residence.
The delegation was given a presentation by Atomic Energy Commission chairman SK Banerjee and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited CMD SK Jain on the safety measures put in place at the plant.
AIADMK MP V Maitreyan told reporters that the Prime Minister gave them a "patient hearing" and said that he can understand the concerns expressed by the locals.
SP Udayakumar, co-ordinator of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, said they categorically told Singh that the project should be scrapped.