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Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, India

The construction of the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu has been very contentious, particularly after the Fukushima disaster of 2011. Main protagonists have been the local fisherfolk.


On 20th of November, 1989, a deal was signed between the Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev and the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, for the construction of two nuclear power plants at Koodamkulam. It is notable, that the deal was signed within just two years of Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, India
State or province:Tamil Nadu
Location of conflict:Kudankulam
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear power plants
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Land acquisition conflicts
Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The proposed capacity of each reactor is around 1000 Mw and the total capacity of the Kudunkalam Nuclear Power Plants (KKNPP) would be approximately 9000 Mw once it would be completed in the future. The conflicts has been on the first reactor under construction.

Project area:364217
Level of Investment for the conflictive project2500000000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:200000
Start of the conflict:1989
Company names or state enterprises:Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) from Russian Federation
Nuclear Corporation of India from India
Relevant government actors:Government of India, Supreme Court of India, Local Police, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, State government of Tamil Naidu
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:People’s movement against nuclear energy, National Alliance of Peoples Movement, Green for change environmental group from Sri Lanka, Chennai Solidarity Group for Koodankulam Struggl
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups

Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Stopping Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) workers to enter into KKNP premises, Boat rallies, Dharnas
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Other socio-economic impactsSerious impact on the fishing community because of low market value of fish and allied products. Consumers are skeptical about the marine food being contaminated because of nuclear radiation from the nuclear power plant.
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Institutional changes
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
-Address the public discontent genuinely
-Serious dialogue between the multiple stakeholders
-Revisiting legal provisions, -Greater autonomy to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB)
-Proper assessment of nuclear establishments across the Country
-Public participation should be strengthen
-Proper public hearing, and environmental assessment report should be made public
Proposal and development of alternatives:Shut down the project completely and use the existing infrastructure for some more productive and social purpose like cold storage of marine products , research at university, hospital etc.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The nuclear project has seriously become a bone of contention between multiple stake holders like, Fishing community, Peoples Movement against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), Government of India (GOI) and civil society groups. the protesters cite multiple reasons for their on-going protest ; risk of earth quake or Tsunami, Poor management of Nuclear wastes, unkept promises by Nuclear regime of India, unsafe future and tremendous threat to marine ecology. Fear of not being adequately rehabilitated, doubt on evacuation plans in case of nuclear disaster.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)


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Communication Received from Certain Member States Regarding Guidelines for the Export of Nuclear Material, Equipment and Technology
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References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

S. P. Udayakumar

Transcend South Asia, 2004 - Nuclear power plants - 382 pages

The Koodankulam Handbook

Insight of Safety Features at KKNPP
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Thinking after Fukushima. Epistemic shift in social sciences
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Plants Under ConstructionKudankulam Atomic Power Project
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Article in Tehelka, 2014
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“Anti-Kudankulam protests turn violent, one killed in police firing” in The Times of India
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Basarat Hassan Public Understanding of Science: Peoples Response to Nuclear Technology in Post Fukushima Era MPhil thesis 2012 JNU New Delhi

Learning from Fukushima
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The Hindu, At Kudankulam’s core is fear, ignorance and anger
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killed in Kudankulam nuclear power plant protest /3325
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Fukushima lessons
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Dont lose the plot now
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Ready to die, will continue to protest: Kudankulam activist
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Will Kudankulam verdict allay safety fears?
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Asianet News (Point Blank) talks to Udayakumar the man who galvanised the popular protest against the nuclear power plant (in Tamil)
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Kudankulam plant gets nod from Supreme Court
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Kudankulam protests: Sedition or cry for safety?
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Kudankulam: Safety guidelines not in place, says AERB chairman
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Meta information
Contributor:Basarat Hassan / V. V. Krishna/FM
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1064
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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