India police crackdown on anti-nuke activists
September 12, 2012, 12:00 am TWN
CHENNAI, India -- Police in southern India launched a crackdown on Tuesday to arrest activists who led a mass protest against the loading of uranium at a new nuclear power plant, a senior officer told AFP.
One fisherman was shot dead by police while hundreds of others clashed with anti-riot personnel on Monday in Tamil Nadu state's Koodankulam region where protesters tried to lay siege to the Russia-backed project.
Police arrested several activists and were trawling local villages on Tuesday in the Trunaveli district where Koodankulam is situated, police superintendent Vijendra Biduri told AFP by phone.
“We have so far arrested 30 people and more arrests are going on as we have identified those behind yesterday's chaos, rioting and arson,” Biduri explained.
“We are going after the main leaders,” he added, describing the situation at the nuclear plant as “fully under control.”
Monday's violence broke a six-month lull in protests at the plant, which campaigners say is a danger to local people.
The Koodankulam nuclear plant is one of many India hopes to build as part of its ambitions to produce 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2032 — a nearly 14-fold increase from current levels.
Authorities say the first of two units of the much-delayed project is ready for operation. The Press Trust of India said Monday's protest followed plans to load uranium fuel into the nuclear plant.
India's existing 20 nuclear reactors currently generate just 4,780 megawatts.
Energy-starved India has been caught in the backlash against atomic power caused by the disaster at Japan's Fukushima power plant in March 2011.
Since Fukushima, Indian activists have also campaigned to stop work scheduled to start in 2013 at Jaitapur in western Maharashtara state, which would be one of the world's biggest nuclear facilities.
Nuclear energy has been a priority for India since 2008 when then-U.S. president George W. Bush signed into law a deal with New Delhi that ended a three-decade ban on U.S. nuclear trade with the country.
Since then, France, Russia and private U.S. and Japanese firms have been locked in fierce competition to sell new reactors to India.