Meeting a day after the bypoll to Sankarankoil Assembly seat in Tirunelveli district, where the plant is located, the state cabinet decided to go ahead with the Indo-Russian joint venture, which ran into trouble after locals protested against its commissioning, citing safety concerns.
S P Udayakumar, convenor of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), spearheading the protests, described the AIADMK government's decision as "unfortunate" and said the protests would continue even as some of them were arrested.
In a move aimed at mollifying the locals, government also announced a Rs 500 crore special development package for the area to construct houses, cold storage facility for fishermen and laying of roads.
"In accordance with (today's) cabinet decision, immediate steps will be taken (to facilitate commissioning) of the plant, "Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said in a statement, breaking her silence over the issue.
She also sought cooperation of political parties and all concerned to immediately resume work at the plant, stalled following protests since Sep 2011.
The first two units of KNPP capable of producing 1000 MW each are almost complete. As on Jan 2012, work on the first unit was 99 per cent complete and 94.6 per cent in the second.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi, who strongly batted for early commissioning of KNPP, had slammed Jayalalithaa for her 'silence' and wondered whether she had any intention to work for commissioning of the plant.
In a five-page statement, Jayalalithaa dwelt on various measures to allay the fears of the locals on the safety aspect outlined by the central and state-appointed teams of experts which had given a clean chit to the project.
The Centre roped in former President A P J Abdul Kalam and appointed a 15-member Central committee, which held four rounds of meeting with representatives of protesters. It had replied to apprehensions of locals and submitted two reports.
The Central panel had vouched for the plant's safety, saying the reactors adhered to all safety norms and that the Atomic Energy Commission had approved it after many levels of safety tests.
There would be no effect on sea-life due to the effluents as they were well under central norms, she said, quoting the report.
The four-member state government appointed committee, comprising nuclear expert and former AEC chief MR Srinivasan, had also vouched for the plant's safety, she said.
Among its observations in the report, it said there was 'no history' of large-scale tremors or tsunami and that the state government had taken all steps to allay fears of the locals besides detailing the safety aspects in the plant.
The committee had recommended creating awareness among locals, the need to set up a cold storage facility for fishermen and boat-repair facility in the locality, she said.
Against this background, both reports were discussed in the cabinet meeting and various aspects, including safety factors and her government's policy of implementing development projects without affecting people, were considered, and it was decided to go ahead with the power generation project, Jayalalithaa added.
Udayakumar had recently sent a legal notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his remarks that protests around Kudankulam were often funded by some NGOs based in the US and Scandinavian countries.