India court rejects Kudankulam nuclear plant fuel petition

Protesters form human chains in sea on 13 September 2012 Protesters formed human chains in the water near the plant

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India's Supreme Court has rejected a petition by anti-nuclear protesters to stop fuel being loaded into a new nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu state.

It said however that it will look into concerns over the plant's safety.

Hundreds of activists and locals formed a human chain in the sea near the Kudankulam plant on Thursday.

They fear a disaster similar to the one at Japan's Fukushima plant last year, but India's government says the plant meets the highest safety standards.

Security has been tightened in the area after a protester was shot dead by police in neighbouring Tuticorin district on Monday.

'Highest safety standards'

Opponents of the plant point out that it is located in an area which was badly affected by the 2004 Asian tsunami.

The government is keen on pushing ahead with the project, which is seen as critical to India's energy needs. It says that the plant is "completely safe" and could be operational two months after the loading of the fuel.

But work there has often been halted by protests, which gained momentum after the Fukushima disaster.

People living close to the site have long been opposed to the joint Indo-Russian project. But businesses in the state, which suffers from power shortages, have welcomed it.

The Tamil Nadu government gave the go-ahead in March for work on the plant's two 1,000 MW reactors to proceed.

It said that it had finished studying experts' reports and judged the plant to be safe.

Correspondents say that it is still unclear when it will begin operating, in part because India's nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, says that it is making last-minute checks before giving final clearance for the fuel loading.

The plant is one of many that India hopes to build as part of its aim of generating 63,000 MW of nuclear power by 2032 - an almost 14-fold increase on current levels.

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