Chennai: Breaking the logjam triggered by the mass protests against the Koodankulam nuclear power project, the Jayalalithaa Government on Wednesday succeeded in ending the 11-day old fast with an assurance that the state cabinet would pass a resolution urging the Centre to halt the project.

The breakthrough came during a meeting between a delegation of the core group of protesters and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, held a day after Prime Minister's emissary V Narayanasamy made efforts to defuse the situation arising out of growing protests by villagers and fishermen.

"The Chief Minister has requested us to call off the fast and we are doing it," S P Udhaya Kumar, Convener of People's Movement against Atomic Power, spearheading the stir, told reporters after the meeting with Jayalalithaa.

Jaya breaks ice

Conceding their demand, Jayalalithaa told the delegation, "the Cabinet will be convened on September 22 and it will adopt a resolution (urging the Centre) to not to go ahead with the works on the plant site till the people's fears are removed," a government statement said.

Assuring the delegation that she would talk to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his return from the US on September 27, she said a delegation headed by Finance Minister O Panneerselvam will also submit a memorandum to him, it said.

Kumar said despite withdrawal of their fast, "we will continue to keep up the pressure on the Central Government" to scrap the project, set to be commissioned in December, a decade after the work on it began.

Narayanasamy briefs Jaya

Minister of State in the PMO Narayanasamy, who rushed to the protest site in Tirunelveli District yesterday, briefed Jayalalithaa on his visit besides conveying the Prime Minister's message on the issue to her.

"...the Chief Minister conveyed certain message for the Prime Minister which I will carry to him," he told reporters.

Kumar, who was accompanied by a delegation of Christian priests and others numbering over 15, said "The committee will continue the struggle in consultation with the AIADMK Government and the blessings of Amma (Jayalalithaa)."

"We do not have any problem with the state government. But, we will continue to keep our pressure on the Centre," he said, adding the meeting with Jayalalithaa was 'very cordial'.

He said the formal end to the fast by 127 people in Idinthakarai village would take place on Thursday.

On being asked why the protests were being held a decade after the project got underway, he said apprehensions came about after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster recently and many countries coming out against nuclear energy.

PM speaks to Jaya

Acting swiftly on a strongly-worded letter from Jayalalithaa accusing the Centre of 'abdicating its responsibilities', Prime Minister spoke to her over phone and deputed Narayanasamy to allay the fears of the protesters over the safety aspects relating to the project.

Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) Chairman
S K Jain, Additional Secretary in Department of Atomic Energy A P Joshi and KNPP Director M Kasinath Balaji were also present when Narayanasamy met Jayalalithaa.

The Chief Minister too had initially vouched for the plant's safety, detailing the safety parameters installed and argued that on completion the state would receive 924 mw of power from the plant set up as an Indo-Russian joint venture.

The protests have intensified in the last few weeks after the project officials said the hot run (testing with dummy fuel) of the first reactor, has been completed and commercial power production would begin in December.

On August 15, a meeting of the local village sabha at Idinthakarai, which falls in the two km radius of the project site, resolved that the plant should be shelved, citing safety concerns and recent Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Ex-AEC Chief favours Kudankulam project

Cautioning against keeping "high-investment facilities" idle, former Atomic Energy Commission Chief M R Srinivasan has sought a vigorous public relations push to counter the "misinformation campaign" against the Kundankulam Nuclear Project.
   
Noting that there is some amount of misunderstanding in the minds of the people protesting against the project after the Fukushima accident in Japan, he said, "Safety is not in any way compromised."
   
"The Atomic Energy Department, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Atomic Energy Regulatory Board have done extensive rechecks and they are satisfied that the circumstances that led to the Fukushima accident, are not at all likely to happen in Kudankulam," Srinivasan said.
   
But he said some people who are traditionally opposed to nuclear energy keep saying that lives would be in danger around nuclear reactors.
     
He said there are rumours doing the rounds that more land would be acquired displacing people and livelihood of the local fishing community would be affected vis-à-vis Kudankulam.
   
"These are not true at all. They do not intend to take any more land even when they want to put up extra units."     

Srinivasan pointed out that fishing activity is going on without impediment in coastal nuclear sites of Tarapur and Kalpakkam, and the atomic facilities there have made positive impact on the local economy.
     
"There is a certain degree of misinformation campaign (in Kudankulam).In my opinion that has to be neutralised with more information and dialogue between the NPCIL and the Atomic Energy Department on the one hand and the public and their leadership on the other..," he said. Asked if he thought that the anti-nuclear lobby is also behind the protests in Kudankulam, Srinivasan said there is an organised anti-nuclear sentiment in certain advanced parts of the world, including Germany and Australia, and after the "Fukushima event".
      
But he also stressed that France is continuing to operate its nuclear reactors, as also Korea and Russia, whereas China is building them at a furious pace.
      
"So, we have to look at it from totality."
       
He said unlike Jaitapur in Maharashtra (where also there are protests against the nuclear plan), where they are yet to be built, in Kudankulam one reactor is nearly ready to start and another is likely to start next year.
    
Noting that huge investment has gone into Kudankulam project, he said, "We can't make investment and allow things to remain idle... These are high investment facilities. If you don't start running them when they are ready to go, (you are) carrying a big unproductive investment."
      
Srinivasan agreed that nuclear power is "inevitable" for India and it has no other option.
      
India is facing shortage of coal even to run coal-fired (thermal) stations and it is beginning to import coal, which is two-three times more expensive than the one available in the domestic market.
      
"That again will push up electricity cost. Gas prices are linked to petroleum price, which is also going up," he said, adding, cost of solar and wind power is high.
    
"There is shortage of electricity in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and everywhere, this (project) would be a great boon. We hope that in the next few days, some degree of sense will return and the people can be satisfied."

Will convey TN's concern on N-project to PM: Narayanasamy
   

Meanwhile, after his visit to the protest site at Koodankulam to assure people about the safety of the nuclear project, Union Minister V Narayanasamy on Tuesday said he will convey Tamil Nadu's concern to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
   
"The Chief Minister conveyed certain message for the Prime Minister which I will convey to him," Narayanasamy, the Prime Minister's emissary, told reporters after his meeting with Jayalalithaa here.
   
The Minister of State in the PMO said he briefed the Chief Minister about his visit to the site on Tuesday.
   
He also said he had conveyed to Jayalalithaa a message from the Prime Minister who will take a final decision. Narayanasamy's meeting with Jayalalithaa came as the agitation against the project entered the 11th day on Wednesday with protesters insisting that it be scrapped.
   
The protesters on Tuesday refused to hold talks with Narayanasamy, saying the intimation came at the eleventh hour. The message was conveyed through a junior village official.
   
Narayanasamy was rushed here by the PM to allay the fears of locals who are up in arms against the project over safety concerns after Jayalalithaa dashed off a strongly worded letter to Singh accusing the Centre of "abdicating" its responsibilities and not making efforts to dispel fears about the project.

The agitation was stepped up last month after authorities announced that the first of the two 1x1000 MW reactors set up under Indo-Russian collaboration would be commissioned in December.

(Agencies)