Commissioning of India Kudankulam nuclear plant delayed

Kudankulam plant
Image caption Officials insist that the plant will be 100% safe

Commissioning of a controversial planned nuclear plant in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu has been delayed by a few months, officials have told the BBC.

Kudankulam plant Chief Superintendent MK Balaji said that the delay was due to public protests at the site which had disrupted building work.

He said that the site had been subjected to a total blockade by protesters since 13 October.

Protesters say the facility is unsafe and in an earthquake area.

They fear a repeat of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant. But officials say it is in a low seismic activity area.

The nearly $3bn plant - which has been either under design or construction for two decades - is equipped with two reactors built with Russian assistance.

"Definitely there is a delay," Mr Balaji told BBC Tamil.

"We have completed hot runs in August and are in the process of completing inspection work. But the the public agitation has disrupted our work."

He said that there would be at least a "three to four months delay" in commissioning the first part of the plant, and because of that the second part was also likely to be behind schedule.

Mr Balaji strongly denied media reports that Russian scientists at the plant were planning to go back home because of the continuing protests.

He insisted that it was safe and that there was no possibility of a radiation leak, although still no decision has yet been taken on where to store nuclear waste. The government insists that no waste will be kept at Kudankulam.

On Monday former Indian president and scientist APJ Abdul Kalam - on a visit to the plant - said that it was fully safe.

He said it was equipped with "sophisticated safety features and there is no need to panic".

Mr Kalam said that he was neither a mediator nor a government envoy, but "a technologist".

"I support nuclear energy along with solar and wind power as it is a clean and green energy which is very much required for the country's rapid growth," he said.

But protesters said they were disappointed with Mr Kalam's support for the plant.

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