Unmindful of the ongoing agitation, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) moved one step closer to its commissioning on Saturday by conducting an emergency drill at a nearby village.
The safety exercise is one of the mandatory steps prescribed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for commissioning of the first unit at the plant in Tirunelvelli district, around 600 km south of Chennai.
On Saturday morning, a KNPP engineer sounded an alarm at the plant site — simulating a radiation leak. Immediately, alert messages were flashed to officials of AERB, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and other officials.
Within minutes, Tirunelvelli district collector A Selvaraj declared an emergency at Nakkanery village, seven km from the plant, and put into operation a plan prepared for such contingencies.
The safety drill had three components — announcements asking people to stay indoors, distribution of iodine tablets and evacuation. “All three activities were successfully carried out,” a KNPP official told HT.
However, People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which has been demanding a complete review of the safety of the plant, called the drill a “sham”.
SP Udayakumar, coordinator of PMANE, also claimed that a “strange” geological event akin to a hot water spring occurred on Wednesday in the Karumaniyar river at Manappad, 44 km from Kudankulam. The event was “witnessed" by locals, a release by the group claimed.
This indicates that geothermal studies in the region “are a must to ensure KNPP's safety before it gets commissioned,” Udayakumar said.