- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

NEW DELHI — Although India maintains that its nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu state withstood the recent tsunami, workers and residents around the Kalpakkam nuclear facility are worried.

The nuclear reactor plant temporarily was shut down after the coastal waves inundated the unit during the Dec. 26 tsunami.

Despite the repeated assurances by India’s Department of Atomic Energy and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India that the Kalpakkam unit is safe and no cause for worry, a sense of insecurity remains among workers and local residents.

According to the South Asian Community Center for Education and Research (SACCER), at least 60 persons were killed and more than 1,000 houses damaged at Kalpakkam, 50 miles south of Madras. The flooding fury left behind a trail of debris across the campus.

The protection walls on the seashore simply disappeared without a trace, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported.

The Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Station Casual Contract Laborers’ Federation said that about 300 workers were missing from the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor site, whose foundation pit was flooded by the tsunami.

There are two Madras Atomic Power Station reactors and one test reactor for the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research in operation at Kalpakkam. In addition to 3,000 regular employees, at least 1,000 persons are employed as contract laborers.

The Kalpakkam facility lost all contact after its telephone exchange was flooded Dec. 26, IANS reported.

“On December 26, the Madras Atomic Power Station looked like a desolate place with no power, no phones, no water, no security arrangement and no hindrance whatsoever for outsiders to enter any part of the plant,” said S.P. Udaykumar of SACCER.

However, Nuclear Power Corporation of India official S.K. Aggarwal said India’s nuclear power plants are the safest in the world.

New Delhi earlier had said that tsunami water had made its way into the nuclear facility.

“Information reaching us suggests that facilities at Kalpakkam nuclear station may have been affected by the tidal waves,” said a spokesman for the prime minister’s office.

Not many workers are willing to return to the nuclear reactor plant, fearing it may not be safe to work there.

The Kalpakkam Atomic Energy Employees’ Association and other workers’ unions plan to file a court case charging there is “a serious lack of qualified technical personnel at critical positions of the … reactors” and that the shortage compromises the safety of the plant and the public, IANS reported.

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