N-plant protests as a chain reaction
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All the safety tests regarding the Koodankulam nuclear plant have been done, validated, reviewed by experts, their reports put out in public domain and, above all, looked at by courts and given a clean chit. And that's why when the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) steps up protests, it begs the question why now, and what for.
A glance at the minutes of the meetings between PMANE and the government-constituted expert group shows that the leading lights of this protest movement were never really keen on a serious conversation. Their claims ranged from being erroneous to, at times, even bizarre.
One such moment was a "researched proposal" to convert the nuclear plant into either a coal-based unit or an LPG-based one. The proposal actually spelled out the steps to achieve this, which obviously began with the pre-condition to first "mothball" the reactor.
In its response, the not-so-amused expert group pointed out that a) the proposal on "fuel switching" was not an original piece of work but had been "copied from some article published in a website belonging to the North America Taiwanese Association"; b) the author of the proposal was "not even aware of the basics of a nuclear plant"; and c) that there was no "scientific engineering basis" to such plant conversion.
Undeterred, PMANE representatives refused to even listen to expert presentations on the subject. It was clear that even then, just like now, the object was to halt work.
With a poor fisherman, 48-year-old G Anthonysamy, losing his life to police firing during the protests on Monday in Thoothukudi, the cause now has a victim. This is bound to overshadow all questions on the scientific credentials of the protest, its backers and leaders. Last month, water used in the hot run of the reactor was replaced with Borate (treated with Boron) water, a crucial step before the fuel is loaded. All plans are in motion to have the reactor up and running by October.
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