TNN | Oct 16, 2013,
MADURAI: How could the protesters rallying against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) raise significant points challenging the project? How could the public be effectively mobilised after they were apprised about the risks from a nuclear plant? The people behind the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which spearheaded the protests, effectively utilised the Right to Information (RTI) Act to extract crucial information over nuclear safety.
To procure information under the RTI Act was challenging for the PMANE activists, though the stated procedure itself is simple. As they found it tough to deal with agencies related to nuclear energy, a dedicated team was set up to obtain the relevant information using the RTI Act. It sent more than 100 RTI applications to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), department of atomic energy (DAE) and Prime Minister’s office, seeking information on the safety features of the nuclear power plant.
PMANE activist, M Pushparayan, said it was through RTI they came to know that a reactor pressure vessel in the power plant had a welded portion which could pose a serious threat. Besides, they confirmed that several equipment for the power plant were bought from many countries other than Russia.
“PMANE had to rely on RTI as organisations dealing with nuclear energy do not supply information easily,” Pushparayan pointed out.
PMANE coordinator S P Udhayakumar explained how the officialdom try to bypass RTI queries. “Despite filing the RTI applications, the officials don’t provide relevant information. They tend to evade the queries by any possible means. Many a times, they supplied useless information,” he said. Udhayakumar recalled one such petition asking about the list of equipment procured for the Kudankulam plant, but they received a huge bundle of papers with irrelevant answers. “They tried clogging us with irrelevant information but I strongly believe that something is better than nothing,” he said. “At least, we can seek information from the government under the RTI Act. But much more has to be done to make the Act useful for the public,” he said.
Overall, the anti-nuclear activists are content that they managed to get some useful information which paved way for the public debate over nuclear energy. “We were able to bring about the public debate on nuclear safety with the information we were able to get,” Pushparayan said.