On 22nd September 3,000 fishermen and anti-nuclear activists aboard 500 boats attempted to blockade a port to prevent the unloading of nuclear fuel into the recently constructed Kudankulam nuclear power plant located on the Tamil Nadu coast in southern India.
This massive power plant is a joint venture between India and Russia and houses two nuclear pressurized water reactors (PWR) reactors, with future plans to construct four additional reactors at the site.
This has resulted in a period of sustained direct action by local residents, strongly opposed to the plant's construction. Over a million people live within 30 km of the proposed plant. Over the last year demonstrators have endured severe repression as over 10,000 police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in the area. Villagers have been beaten, hundreds have been arrested and some activists face charges of sedition and even of waging war against the government. In April the police cut off the water, food and power-supply to protesting villagers and imposed a curfew in the villages at the heart of the resistance.
At this point the Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Enegy (PMANE) called off their protests hoping for some respite for the people. They filed a public interest litigation against the governments civil nuclear program complaining that the plant itself was unsafe, that there has not been a public hearing and thus it is an authoritarian project imposed upon the people. Unfortunately their pleas were ignored and when the Indian government announced that the loading of fuel into the plant would begin on or around 11th September the people immediately sprung into action.
On 10th September thousands of anti-nuclear protesters marched towards the power plant, many were injured by the police who lobbed tear-gas shells into the crowd, while at Manappadu police fired into the crowd and a fisherman was shot and killed. On the 13th hundreds of protesters formed a human chain in the sea to protest at the loading of the fuel, staying in for two hour intervals in shifts. They demanded the release of all arrestees, compensation for those injured by the police and an end to the police repression.
One major fact is that there are more than one million people living within a 30km radius of the plant, which in the event of a disaster would make the evacuation of the population impossible. This far exceeds the recommendations of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and so the plant should never have been built there. Not that this will worry the Russian firm that supplied and built the reactor as the Indian government agreed that they will have zero liability in the event of an accident. (Similar conditions apply to power companies responsible for major civic emergencies in the UK)
Beyond their legitimate safety concerns, villagers have other reasons to be angry. The government has invested millions on a new hospital and other facilities exclusively for plant empoyees, meanwhile the rest of the locals live in squalor lacking even basic facilities such as running water.
The Indian government has attempted to discredit the movement complaining that foreign organisations are agitating the local people and that this should not be allowed. Despite all of this further demonstrations are planned for the coming weeks and they are not giving up.
Closer to home - check out the article on action at Hinkley point - the UK's frontline against nu-killer.