CHENNAI - Police shot dead a fisherman during a mass protest against the loading of uranium at a nuclear power plant in southern India on Monday, officials and reports said.
Steel-helmeted officers ringed one of two 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors in Tamil Nadu state’s Koodankulam region as hundreds of activists tried to lay a siege of the Russia-backed project, television footage showed.
The protests then spread and a 48-year-old fisherman was killed when police opened fire at activists staging another rally in the nearby Tuticorin district, according to a report by the Press Trust of India. “A number of people including police personnel have received injuries in the clashes,” another officer told AFP while TV footage showed anti-riot personnel chase some of the activists, including women, into the nearby sea.
Monday’s violence comes six months after a lull in protests at the plant, which campaigners say could endanger the lives of locals in the case of a nuclear disaster.
The Press Trust of India said the new protests were in opposition to the loading of enriched uranium in the plant’s reactor.
The Koodankulam 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.
India’s existing 20 nuclear reactors currently generate just 4,780 megawatts.
Coal-dependent India has a peak power shortage of around 12 percent.
But 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-US president George W Bush signed into law a deal with New Delhi that ended a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with the country.
Since then, France, Russia and private US and Japanese firms have been locked in fierce competition to sell new reactors to India.