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Scientists hope to change protesters' views

india Updated: Nov 15, 2011 01:24 IST
KV Lakshmana

Locked out by protesters, nuclear scientists and engineers at the 2,000 MW Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in Tamil Nadu are now working out of a guesthouse to complete administrative paperwork.

"We don't know what happened, suddenly the mood changed and the people turned against us," site director M Kasinath Balaji said.

The scientists say that maintenance of sensitive electronic gadgets and other hi-tech equipment has been affected. They have decided to sensitise villagers to the safety features of the plant in Tirunelveli district.

"It is my job to convince the villagers and we will bring them around," Balaji said.

For starters, the nuclear installation was opened up for inspection by the media. For the first time, outsiders were allowed inside the high security and secret nuclear reactor building on Saturday with a guided tour of the plant.

"We have brought out leaflets in simple language that try to remove the misgivings. We are also making short video films on why (nuclear disasters such as) Chernobyl or Fukushima cannot happen here because of superior safety features," Balaji said.

But he is up against a "master communicator" - SP Udayakumar, convenor of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which is spearheading the agitation.

"Yes, he is very articulate and has a hold on the masses," said BC Pathak, chief engineer who erected the Kudankulam plant.

For the past few months, Lourde's church at Idinthakari village, two km from the plant site, has become the headquarters of the movement, where protesters congregate daily to participate in a relay hunger strike.