03/21/2012, 00.00
INDIA
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Tamil Nadu: 200 people arrested, including a priest, in anti-nuclear protest

People peacefully demonstrate against the Kudankulam plant approved by the government. Jesuit priest says India needs nuclear plant. For him, it is crucial for "maintaining the energy security of India, reducing atmospheric pollution and gaining economic benefits". People must be educated on the matter.

Chennai (AsiaNews) - Two days ago, police in Tamil Nadu arrested about 200 people following clashes between security forces and anti-nuclear protesters. Fr Suseelan, a priest from the village of Koottapuli, and some members of his parish, were among those arrested. They had joined the more than 5,000 people demonstrating against the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power station. Members of civil society, including former judges, writers, scientists, academics, filmmakers and lawyers oppose the government's decision to build the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

People were arrested under Sections 121 ('Waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India'), 121A ('Conspiracy to [. . .] overawe, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force, the Central Government) and 153A ('Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language') of the Indian Penal Code.

An agreement to build a Soviet-made plant was signed in 1988, but began only in 1997. Since then, supply problems and local opposition have delayed construction. And since last year's Fukushima accident, residents near the site are even more concerned and have begun protesting on a regular basis.

Fr S. Ignacimuthu sj, director of the Entomology Research Institute at Loyola College in Chennai, is instead in favour of the Kudankulam plant. "Nuclear power can play a larger role in maintaining the energy security of India, reducing atmospheric pollution and gaining economic benefits," he said.

In his view, people are influenced more by certain accidents involving nuclear plants (like the one in Fukushima) than by the advantages they can bring.

"Nuclear energy does not release greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbon) during nuclear reaction," he explained. It "does not create pollution and acid rain" and its "operating costs are relatively low and stable". If built correctly, they are safe.

Of course, the "disposal of nuclear waste is a major task" but it can be done. India can take advantage of its geological stable formations.

Other "energy sources such as coal, hydroelectric, gas, wind, solar, refuse-based, and biomass yield very less amount of electricity and they have many disadvantages," including environmental ones.

For these reasons, a nuclear plant is crucial for sustainable development in India. People should be educated about these new forms of energy.

Nuclear power is the fourth-largest source of electricity in India, and meets 3 per cent of its needs. At present, 20 reactors are in operation in six plants, generating 4.780 MW of electricity. They are: Kaiga (Karnataka), 880 MW; Kakrapar (Gujarat), Kalpakkam (Tamil Nadu), Narora (Uttar Pradesh), 440 MW each; Rawatbhata (Rajasthan) 1.180 MW; and Taraour (Maharashtra), 1.400 MW. (NC)

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