Ending seven months of uncertainty with a U-turn, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa gave the go-ahead to the Kudankulam nuclear power plant on Monday, triggering cries of betrayal from protesters.
The TN cabinet nod for the commissioning of the first phase of the Indo-Russian project came amid mounting power shortage and coincided with the arrest of 10 anti-plant activists.
Armed with reports of two state government-formed expert committees, Jayalalithaa declared the 2X1000 MW plant in Tirunelveli district, 650 km south of Chennai, safe.
“The government, after deeply analysing the reports… came to the conclusion that the plant was completely safe and would not pose a threat to the people there and decided to support the opening of the plant,” she said.
The TN cabinet, which had earlier passed a resolution urging to Centre to halt work on the project, also cleared a R500-crore package for infrastructure development in Kudankulam.
In December last year, PM Manmohan Singh had promised TN half of the power to be generated by the plant. Singh had noted that India could not afford to have the two reactors — on which the government has spent Rs 14,000 crore — sit idle.
SP Udayakumar, convenor of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, said, “Our agitation will continue.” Nearly 3,000 police personnel have been deployed around the plant.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd chairman and MD SK Jain welcomed the decision and said the first 1000 MW unit would be ready for the atomic energy regulator’s clearance for fuel loading in two months.