PAEC explains why it opted for Chinese reactor

Published February 10, 2015
A nuclear reactor and other facilities for the K-2 and K-3 project are being built near Paradise Point on Monday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A nuclear reactor and other facilities for the K-2 and K-3 project are being built near Paradise Point on Monday.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: While opting for a nuclear reactor for energy generation project K-2 and K3, Pakistan chose to go for an improved version provided by China, as it is most reliable, rather than going for one that may not work in the future, said the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) on Monday.

China is the only country physically helping Pakistan in building the reactor while international organisations are helping us in following safety guidelines, said PAEC representatives before a visit to the site of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plants (Kanupp) unit 1 (K1) and unit 2 (K2).

Presentations on the nuclear reactors site were given at a meeting of PAEC representatives before the visit.

Speaking about what they termed misconceptions related to the project, the PAEC representatives headed by Kanupp director-general Mohammad Tahir Ahmad said they weighed some options before starting the project. Explaining, he said: “We had two options, either to go for an innovative version of the reactor or an improved one. We opted for the latter because it is reliable and unlike developed countries such as the United States, we can’t afford to have a design that may not work in the future.”


‘Kanupp was a gift from Canada to Pakistan in the 1970s and was also never experimented before.’


Mr Ahmad also said there was a problem with alternative energy sources such as solar and wind. “Solar and wind projects can work as an added source for creating energy but both lack sustainability. An entire project can’t be based on it, though it can be considered as a second option. We are not averse to the idea. However, generating power through nuclear energy is the most dependable option for the need of a city as big as Karachi,” he added.

According to the activists, who have been raising concerns over the project, the reactors for K-2 and K-3 will be designed and built by the China National Nuclear Corporation. Their main concern revolves around the point that the design of the reactor has not been experimented anywhere before, not even in China, and that Pakistan will be a ground for experimentation.

When the question was raised at the meeting, general manager of the K-2, K-3 project at the PAEC Azfar Minhaj said that Kanupp was also never tried before. “Kanupp was a gift from Canada to Pakistan in the 1970s and was also never experimented before. But it’s been 40 years and it worked well while it lasted. Similar concerns are also raised for this project, but time will tell how well it works,” he added.

Mr Minhaj argued that the K-2, K-3 project was first initiated in 2006 and “interestingly, for the past six years, nobody raised a concern or a doubt”.

About safety concerns, he said that chances of an accident at the K-2, K-3 site are “almost one to nothing”. Currently there were 71 under-construction nuclear power plants worldwide, “so the perception that the world has shunned the practice is incorrect”, he added.

Mr Minhaj said the “indigenous Chinese model reactor passed the Generic Reactor Safety Review of the International Atomic Energy Agency as a third-generation plant after one-year evaluation”.

Asked if it would have been easier to hold a public hearing earlier than providing too many clarifications at present, the project general manager said: “We’ll hold a public hearing as per the ruling of the Sindh High Court soon after the 90-day period given by the court is over, sometime in March.”

The PAEC representatives maintained that some of the project information related to the strategic position of Pakistan and thus could not be divulged. Otherwise, they remained open to questions related to the site and safety concerns. According to their conservative estimate, they said, in case of an emergency at Kanupp, the population residing within the “five kilometre radius of the site will be evacuated and rehabilitated by us. We already have standard operating procedure for that. The area surrounding Kanupp includes 15 goths with a population of around 93,000,” they added.

Meanwhile, work was under way at the K-2, K-3 project site near Paradise Point.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2015

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