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Thousands of Anti-Nuclear Protesters Face Police in India, 200 Arrested

Green signal for nuclear power 'is a red signal for our lives'

- Common Dreams staff

After thousands gathered in Idinthikarai, Tamil Nadu, India on Monday to protest the vastly contested Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant there, police forces came out en masse to repress demonstrations. Over 200 protesters have been arrested including key anti-nuclear organizers.

Thousands of Koodankulam protesters have gathered in front of St Lourdes church (Photo: TEHELKA) Police initiated “operation Koodankulam" arresting protesters and blocking all entry points to the coastal villages surrounding the nuclear power plant.

Since the arrests, thousands have gathered on the grounds of St Lourdes Church in the area as several have begun a hunger strike. "We will continue our protest till we die,” said one protester.

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Indian Police [Arrests] at Nuclear Power Plant Protest (Environment News Service):

Thousands of police [Monday] surrounded thousands of anti-nuclear protestors demonstrating against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Idinthakarai. [...]

"The bells are ringing in Idinthikarai, thousands of people [were] pouring into the village from all over the nearby districts, to lay siege to the plant," one of the protest leaders said in an email alert [...]

People from Idindhakarai village [blocked] the entrance to the plant, demanding the release of those arrested. [...]

All roads to Idinthakarai [were] blocked by the police, but more protesters [were trying] to get to the village by boat.

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is a Russian-built power station situated at the very southern tip of India in the state of Tamil Nadu. The two pressurized water reactors being constructed by the state-owned Atomstroy Export are 98 percent complete.

While plant construction is nearly complete, commissioning was put on hold due to anti-nuclear protests by local residents and the nonprofit group People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy.

But [Monday], Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa gave the green light to move forward with commissioning the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, a day after a local election was held in the district where the plant is located. [...]

"The nuclear plant is unsafe," said S.P. Udayakumar, a teacher, writer and leader of the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy and convenor of the Green Party of India. Today, he announced a hunger strike of indefinite length in protest against commissioning the power plant. [...]

"The safety analysis report and the site evaluation study have not been made public. No public hearing was held. It's an authoritarian project that has been imposed on the people," said Udayakumar. [...]

The protesters say they fear a disaster like the nuclear accident in March 2011 at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant [...]

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant protesters say, "More than one million people live within the 30 km radius of the KKNPP, which far exceeds the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board stipulations. It is quite impossible to evacuate this many people quickly and efficiently in case of a nuclear disaster at Kudankulam."

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Nearly 200 Arrested in India Nuclear Protest (Agence France-Presse):

Police in a southern Indian state said Tuesday they have arrested nearly 200 activists who were protesting the start of work at a long-stalled nuclear power plant.

Engineers resumed working Tuesday on one of two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu's Koodankulam region a day after the local government gave the green light for the resumption of the Russia-backed project. [...]An anti-nuclear protest in Bangalore, India, last year (AFP)

"Those we have arrested were involved in this protest. They are from the surrounding areas," Tirunelvel police chief told AFP.

The Koodankulam plant is one of many India hopes to build as part of its ambitions to produce 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2032 -- a nearly 14-fold increase from current levels.

India's existing 20 nuclear reactors currently generate just 4,780 megawatts. [...]

Since the Fukushima crisis, Indian activists have also campaigned to stop work scheduled to start in 2013 at Jaitapur in western Maharashtara state which would be one of the world's biggest nuclear facilities. [...]

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“Green Signal for Koodankulam Is a Red Signal for our Lives” (Tehelka):

“We are protesting peacefully. We will continue our protests till our demands are met,” said Pushparayan. According to him, the protesters want an immediate release of people arrested and the withdrawal of Tamil Nadu cabinet resolution. “We have been ditched by the Tamil Nadu government, they will pay for the betrayal and treachery,” [Dr SP] Udayakumar told TEHELKA.

Udayakumar asked why the state government was not ready to conduct the safety drill around the 30 kilometer radius of the power plant which is mandatory before commissioning a nuclear plant. “The government is violating basic safety requirements before commissioning the plant. In such a situation we have no other option,” said Udayakumar. He warned of public health problems and food shortage at Idinthakarai and appealed to the people of Tamil Nadu to be aware of “this assault on the Tamil community”.

“They [government] are preparing to load uranium fuel rods into the reactor without conducting safety or evacuation drills. This kind of Fascist development is taking our country to another round of New East India Companies and Neo-colonialism,” said Udayakumar. Dr V Suresh, National Secretary, PUCL, Tamil Nadu-Puducherry condemned the police action by the Tamil Nadu State Government against peaceful demonstrators.[...]

According to Dr SP Udaykumar, convener, People’s Movement against Nuclear Energy, who is on a indefinite hunger strike along with Pusparayan, his associate at Idinthakarai, around 5000 people assembled at the St Lourdes Church ground since Monday. “We, eight men and seven women, are on an indefinite hunger strike. The green signal for Koodankulam is a red signal for our lives. We will continue our protest till we die,” said Udayakumar.

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