New Delhi: Stepping up outreach on Kudankulam nuclear plant issue, the Centre on Thursday announced a 15-member group of experts to clear "misconceptions" about the ambitious project hit by agitation.

The group comprises specialists in various areas including environmental science, radiation safety, reactor design and safety, regulatory aspects, waste management, oncology, oceanography, fisheries, thermal ecology, seismology.

"This Expert Group will explain the factual position on various aspects of the project and will also dispel apprehensions of some sections of the local people," a Department of Atomic Energy statement said.

The panel includes A E Muthunayagam, Vice Chancellor, Nurul Islam University; V Shantha, noted oncologist and Chairperson of Adyar Cancer Institute; M R Iyer, former Director of Division of Radiation Safety at International Atomic Energy Agency and C S Ramesh, Associate Professor and Surgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital.

The Tamil Nadu government will be requested to provide an appropriate platform where the Expert Group can meet the senior state government officials, spokespersons of the neighbourhoods identified them and can deliberate on issues raised in the recent times, the DAE said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had last night said that the committee promised by him to convince stakeholders in the Kudankulam nuclear power project would be set up on Thursday.

The Kudankulam project, where two 1000MW nuclear plants built with Russian collaboration are in advanced stages of completion, ran into a rash of protests as it approached final stages of commissioning.

A section of the locals had expressed concern over the environmental and safety aspects of the projects leading to protests, which later acquired political colour. The Prime Minister had met representatives of the locals and that of the Tamil Nadu government on October 7 and assured them that a panel of experts would be set up to address their "legitimate concerns".

The panel also comprises M N Madhyastha, retired Professor of Mangalore University and expert on thermal ecology; N Sukumaran, Director, School of Life Sciences at VELS University; A K Pai, Professor at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education; and Harsh Gupta, noted seismologist and Professor at the National Geophysical Research Institute.

The other experts in the committee are: D V R Murthy of IIT, Madras, Kannan Iyer of IIT, Bombay, S K Mehta, former Director of Reactor Group at the BARC; S K Sharma, former Chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board; K Balu, former Director of Nuclear Waste Management Group at BARC; S M Lee, Raja Ramanna Fellow at Safety Research Institute, Kalpakkam, and W Stephen Aruldoss Kanthiah former Director (operations) of Heavy Water Board.

(Agencies)