Kudankulam is India’s most powerful nuclear power plant located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. A framework agreement was signed in early June 2017 for the third phase of the project. The Kudankulam NPP has made the strongest impact on the local economy and turned the state from a region short of power into a center of social and economic development. It was only a few years ago that seaside residents feared local marine life would be affected by rubbing shoulders with the NPP, and their fears could have seriously postponed the project. It was a real challenge for Indian and Rosatom partners. Dr. R. Rajagobal, President of International Cultural Federation and a Chairman of Indo-Russian centre for Rural Development, tells the story of the project and why it turned to be a success.
“It should be noted that the Tamil Nadu energy mix was based on water resource for power generation, mainly on the Kanyakumari District Pechipari Dam, Manimuthar Dam and Salem District Mettur Dam. Others were thermal power stations in Thuthukudi, Ennur, North Chennai and Neyveli. The Neyveli and Thuthukudi TPPs ran on coal imported from foreign countries. Therefore, the price was vulnerable and high even though the Tamil Nadu Government faced an 80% power cut. Normal public life was totally affected; the local industry was unable to properly run the institutions as well,” says Dr. R. Rajagobal.
In 2012, experts evaluated power shortage in Tamil Nadu at 3,000 MW. This situation thwarted the development of local industries. It even left people without favorite TV programs in the evening, students could not think of stable Internet surfing. At that time it was a daily routine for the state to have power cuts up to 8 hours every day, including holidays, the expert added. “The Kudankulam NPP was a chance to overcome the situation. But when construction of the first power unit started, local people who earn their living by fishing had fear of losing their traditional business, the only business they have passed from one generation on to another. Their fears were warmed up by anti-nuclear activists that created so many obstacles. They misguided people, gave wrong information and baseless evidence,” Dr. R. Rajagobal reports.
According to him, many public workshops and conferences were organized at that time with the support of Rosatom and other NGOs where real value of the Kudankulam NPP was explained to Tamil Nadu people. It is pure physics, he added. Whirling waters heave the biomass up from the seabed, and it attracts fish to the place rather than drives it away. Sometimes fish gets into the station’s water intake facility, but the powerful compressor blows it up to the surface, and fast upper currents and water pumps force the fish back into the ocean. We tried to contact people directly, change mind of local people by telling them true and clear facts about real value of the nuclear plant, technology and safety measures. Finally they believed our words and protests decayed.
“Now people of Tamil Nadu know the real value of Kudankulam and high safety measures offered by the latest technology, and fully support the project,” Dr. R. Rajagobal concludes. The Kudankulam NPP helped to dramatically improve the tough energy situation in Tamil Nadu.
The first two units are now the most powerful in India, both among nuclear stations and coalfired thermal units. This means energy is not only permanent, but green and reducing India’s dependence on hydrocarbons. Compared to other states, Tamil Nadu’s economic growth is one of the highest in India, demonstrating steady industrial development. The new phase of the project (Units 3 and 4) will involve more local manufacturers than construction of the first two units. Electric equipment, compressors, secondary circuit parts and many other components will be designed and manufactured by Indian companies. Indian vendors will account for up to 30% of the engineering part of the project.
“Local people know the real value of Kudankulam, and this assures me the project will make our life better and have a positive impact on India’s general development,” says Dr. R. Rajagobal.