The two month old agitation against the nuclear project at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu is gathering momentum. Local people are on a relay hunger strike. Students and professionals have now joined in. It has been helped by the intervention of Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha who has addressed the grievances to the Centre. One may of course read in it her attempt at getting back at the Centre for not meeting her state’s financial needs. However, it is not just a Centre-state conflict. A debate rages about the need for generating nuclear power even for civilian purposes as that is thought to be at the cost of the environment and the needs and livelihood of the people inhabiting the area where a project is to be implemented. The Fukushima tragedy in Japan casts a shadow. It has brought into focus major safety concerns. But no way out has been found as yet. In Jaitapur, the Maharashtra government used violence to quell the protest. In Koodankulam, the Centre seems to be passive. A government representative meeting sections of the protesting people there does not indicate a sufficiently proactive attitude. People have to be convinced that nuclear reactors at the proposed site are safe. It will not damage the environment nor will it threaten the livelihood of people in the adjacent area.
There is need for official transparency especially after the Fukushima disaster. Efforts to set up a nuclear safety regulatory authority have come to naught as the proposed body has not been given necessary freedom of action. The government cannot turn a blind eye to the agitation. But people have to be made aware that the reactors do not endanger their safety if necessary safeguards are put in place. Japan had put a moratorium on nuclear plants after disaster struck at Fukushima. But it has now reconsidered the decision.