By Ali Raza
In the end of August 2013 a civil nuclear agreement was signed between China and Pakistan to build Karachi Nuclear Power Plant-2 and Karachi Nuclear Power Plant-3 by 2019. This deal was conducted under a grandfather clause.
After careful study, it is argued that Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (K-2) and Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (K-3) belong to third generation of technology that is not only a modern technology, but also it is based upon advance lessons that have been learned from Fukushima accidents. These are PWR reactors with 1100MW of each. This is the biggest project which will be completed with the cooperation of PAEC, PNRA and multinational companies of china. Why these two units would be built near Karachi coast? Because in uranium fueled power reactors water is a necessary requirement in transfer circuit, for cooling systems and to control chain reaction.
However, in the post–Fukushima scenario, environmental safety and security in context of nuclear energy is always a complicated and debatable phenomenon throughout the world. But Pakistan’s history is eyewitness to there being a time when India was supported and Pakistan was opposed by nuclear suppliers from building safe nuclear fuel cycle.
Nowadays this same opposing trend can also be seen within Pakistan from the side of those anti-nuclear activists, who don’t want to realize the importance of Sino-Pakistan civil nuclear agreement. Therefore, sometimes the lack of awareness is more dangerous than existing challenges.
In terms of economic and energy crisis it is true that national budget for environment, environmental degradation, unsustainable development, ecological effects, natural disasters and polluted water are major issues in Pakistan. But in the context of nuclear energy, it would be wrong to say that Pakistan is an inexperienced nuclear state. So, here questions to ponder upon are: what are purposes and advantages of K-2 and K-3 in Pakistan? And why the environmental impact assessments are taken into consideration?
Today, in the world 14% electricity is generating from nuclear sources and there are 31 countries that are using nuclear energy to generate electricity and nuclear energy also prevents from toxic gases such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.
Pakistan is also facing immense challenges of electricity shortfall. According to the PEPCO analysis, Pakistan is generating total 10,306MW energy, while total demand of electricity is 15,316MW.
However, “timber mafia” is emerging in Pakistan due to impacts of electricity crisis. As Pakistan’s Inspector general for forests said, “even large factories in Karachi are burning woods due to gas and power crisis”. Thus, in a future scenario, the cutting and burning of this natural asset could be a great cause of environmental threats such as floods, global warming and water pollution. In this regard it can be said that K-2 and K-3 are not only important to fulfill the energy gap but are also better to enhance environmental security in Karachi.
Another issue attached to K-2 and K-3 is that, how will the environmental impact assessment be ensured? The answer to this question can be put in many ways. Technically, “design” and “core” are two key components to investigate degree of safety and threats in nuclear power plants.
Somehow, it is tempting to believe that these nuclear reactors are safer than Fukushima and Chashma series reactors, because according to the Nuclear Threat initiative study “Pakistan is most improved country among nuclear weapons sates”. The provincial Environmental Protection Agency, has also given its approval, because Pakistan has mature record of nuclear safety.
For instance, in 2003 during Tasman Spirit incident the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) already has experienced how to protect the environment from pollution. The PAEC and PNRA are also responsible bodies to manage radioactive material and for safety and security measures of all nuclear facilities in Karachi respectively.
Analytically, a few decades ago Pakistan was a water rich country. It is reported by the World Bank that Pakistan is among those 17 countries that are facing menace of water shortage. But according to current situation 44% people of urban areas and 90% people of rural areas have no access to basic need of clean water.
Therefore the building of K-2 and K-3 is necessary, because nuclear power is among cheaper and cleaner means to protect from water pollution. Nuclear energy is one of those means that will provide the purest and cleanest water not only to Karachi but will also address health issues of Pakistanis. PAEC is also running 14 cancer medical hospitals in Pakistan. Eighty percent of the cancers patients are being treated in these hospitals. Four of these medical centers have been certified by International Organization for Standardization (ISO).The research on nuclear radiation for environmental studies has been conducting by number of scientists, centers and universities.
Consequently, from the above elucidation it can be deduced that Sino-Pakistan civil nuclear deal is not a lose-lose scenario, because all bilateral/trilateral civil nuclear declared facilities of Pakistan are and will be under specific safeguard of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Similarly, PNRA and PAEC are playing tremendous role in safety and security measures of nuclear facilities, because Pakistan’s future is safe only into the hands of peaceful use of nuclear technology.
The construction of K-2 and K-3 will manage ecosystems, preserves biodiversity and will protect population of Karachi communities from natural hazards. Because, it is international norm that every civil nuclear agreement will deals with safety levels, security measures, design barriers, construction sites and operational phases that are also taken into consideration in Pakistan. In nutshell, Pakistan is going to enhance environmental as well as individual security, and it would be better if public is aware about to reduce the friction between practices and perceptions. So, it will be wrong to say that Pakistan is going to build KANUPP-1 and KANUPP-2 without any rational calculation of safety and security.
About the author: Ali Raza
Ali Raza works at Strategic Vision Institute and may be reached at [email protected]