Given the hurdles to infrastructure projects across India, there's good news from Tamil Nadu. The prolonged shutdown at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has ended following chief minister J Jayalalithaa's decision to back the Rs 13,000 crore project.
But, while accompanied by a welcome area development package, this official nod may not dampen the ongoing anti-Kudankulam agitation. So, police must use utmost care in dealing with protesters. And the government must go all out to assuage local concerns about safety and possible damage to agricultural lands, fisheries, etc. Even a year after Japan's Fukushima, popular fears about nuclear installations remain, as the roadblocks to Maharashtra`s Jaitapur nuclear power project show. Given such projects are massive, involve high costs and foreign expertise, it's not hard to see how easily local protests can be politicised and manipulated. Transparency and engagement are thus all the more necessary to counter Luddite propaganda and boost awareness of nuclear energy's benefits. That goes not just for Tamil Nadu
and Maharashtra, both no longer power surplus states.
Authorities' claims of safety must be backed up with regular on-site reviews, security assessments and structural upgrade. However much experts swear by an installation's solidity, disaster preparedness, including evacuation training and drills, involving local people does much to bring them on board. The point is, public concerns must be addressed sensitively, interactively - and swiftly. India's big plans to raise nuclear power capacity - to 63,000 MW by 2032 - brook no delay. With domestic energy consumption slated to grow by an average 6% annually, we need a diversified energy basket. To match emissions targets and developmental aims, we can't depend solely on polluting fossil fuels nor be over-reliant on renewables, which draw heavily on land and other resources. Fast-growing India needs nuclear power as well, for its twin benefits: it's both clean and can cater to people on a mass scale.