KARACHI: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Pakistan, has demanded that the government conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the nuclear power plants project in Karachi before according approval to it.
The EIA should be carried out with full participation from all stakeholders followed by a public hearing as required by law, it said.
The non-governmental organisation took the stance at a meeting of its executive members held at IUCN’s country office in Karachi on Wednesday.
According to sources, the members discussed the government announcement of setting up two nuclear plants along the coast with Chinese support and unanimously agreed that a detailed study should be conducted on technical pros and cons of the nuclear power option.
“The members were of the opinion that though the severity of the energy crisis couldn’t be ignored, the particular option requires decisions based on facts and a thorough cost benefit analysis,” says a press release issued by IUCN.The members expressed serious concern on the location of the site that they said, existed close to Karachi, the country’s most densely populated city.
“The project requires utmost caution. An evacuation plan in case of emergency and a system for the safe disposal of nuclear waste are two other important aspects of any nuclear power generation project that the government needs to focus on,” the members observed during the meeting.
The meeting was attended by global vice president and regional councillor Asia Malik Amin Aslam, founding president of Baanhn Beli and former IUCN global vice president and regional councillor Javed Jabbar, inspector-general of forests, climate change division, Syed Mahmood Nasir, technical director at Trust for Coastal Resource Meher Marker Noshirwani, Shehri member Roland deSouza and chief executive of the Institute of Rural Management Room Saeed Hayat and country representative of IUCN-Pakistan Mahmood Akhtar Cheema attended the meeting.
It is important to recall that the federal government has signed two agreements with China; one to build two nuclear power plants (K-II and K-III) with a total capacity of 2,200 megawatts power generation in the Hawkesbay area while the other is of a $6.5 billion ‘concessionary loan’ that the Chinese government would provide for the plants development.
Despite assurances from government officials that the seismic characteristics and earthquake history of the site have fully been taken into account at the project’s conceptual stage and the reactors have been designed with a very large safety margin for protection against earthquakes and tsunamis, scientists have raised various concerns related to the project. The most serious one among them is related to conducting a proper EIA as per law.
While officials of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) claim that an EIA had been done and submitted to the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) that later issued an NOC for the project, environmentalists say that the project lacks a proper EIA with full participation from stakeholders and there has been no public hearing as per law.
They also argue that the site evaluation report of the project grossly underestimates the earthquake risk in an area that lies on a major fault line and has a history of earthquakes. The project, they say, also lacks report on the safety of the reactors (ACP-1000), which, according to experts, is still being designed in China.