Russia wants scientists out if Kudankulam N-plant standoff continues

As the standoff over Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu persists, Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin said his country cannot further allow its scientists to remain idle.

"Why should we keep them here, if they do nothing? We should take them away from here," Kadakin said at a function in Chennai.

Kadakin said the service of the nuclear energy experts was required elsewhere in the world and also in Russia.

Assuring that the Indo-Russian joint venture was the safest in the world, the envoy said the first two units of the nuclear plant were ready for commissioning.

Currently, there are about 130 Russian scientists and engineers whose work has been halted by protests from villagers fearing for their lives and safety in case of any nuclear accident.

Several NGOs and church organisations as well have joined the villagers in protesting against the N-plant.

The first unit of the project, estimated to cost around Rs.13,160 crore, was expected to go on stream in December, last year.

The central and the state governments even constituted two different committees to allay the fears of the local communities at Kudankulam and surrounding areas.

On Thursday, the Tamil Nadu government constituted a four-member expert committee headed by former chairman Atomic Energy Commission M R Srinivasan.

Srinivasan told reporters that the committee will approach the issue in an "objective manner" and will speak to the local people directly.

Although the setting up of the panel was welcomed by the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) which is spearheading the protests, the inclusion of Srinivasan has prompted calls for his removal.

"We are obliged to point out that Dr Srinivasan is a well-known pro-nuclear person. He is the former Chairman and a current member of India's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)," PMANE said in a statement, adding the people of Tamil Nadu had expected the State Expert Team members to be neutral and independent.

PMANE requested the Chief Minister to replace Srinivasan with another expert and expand the Team with experts in Geology, Oceanography and Hydrology.

The two 1,000 MW nuclear reactors are being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) with Russian technology and equipment.

The PMANE Coordinator SP Udayakumar last week expressed that the government had failed miserably to allay the fears and concerns of the people.

He alleged that the Central Government and its intelligence agencies were even "sending spies and agents into our villages to divide our communities, create fear and panic among the people and instigate violence".

"For instance, on February 8, 2012, three men had entered our relay fast site at Idinthakarai and loitering about the complex with a few bags and boxes. Our people drove them away and filed a complaint with the Kudankulam police."

Udayakumar suggested that the new Expert Team shun the usual public hearing model interactions, and visit the project-affected villages and hamlets individually, listen to the fears and concerns of the people and arrive at a conclusion in a democratic manner.