Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Let’s go nuclear — safely

Updated Mar 14, 2015 08:34am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

The writer holds a doctorate in nuclear physics.
The writer holds a doctorate in nuclear physics.

My house in Islamabad has been running mostly on nuclear energy for about two years now. Nearly eight light minutes away a highly efficient nuclear fusion reactor, using Einstein’s famous mass-energy formula, beams radiant energy towards it. A tiny part of this is captured by a photovoltaic array (German) on my rooftop and produces electricity for lights and various appliances. Heavy-duty batteries (Korean) are charged during daytime, ensuring that no one notices when the neighbourhood’s electricity fails. A vacuum tube solar collector (Chinese) provides abundant hot water. The gas connection from Sui Northern, unavailable without bribes, has scarcely been missed.

Frankly, I had been doubtful. The price (Rs700,000 then, Rs500,000 now) was substantial, and there are always cloudy days. But zero-maintenance with a lifelong guarantee, and sharply decreased dependence upon unreliable grid electricity, has ended those reservations. So far my neighbours have shown little interest — solar equipment is rarely seen on roofs in Pakistan. But during my recent visit to Shanghai, I saw few roofs without solar geysers or photovoltaic assemblies. Although Shanghai receives much less sun than Islamabad, I was told that house owners there rent out spare roof space for a hefty sum.

Solar energy, powering both windmills and photovoltaics, is now seeing a spectacular rise worldwide. This quiet revolution owes to improvements in manufacturing technology. The 11-country International Energy Agency reports that the cost of solar panels is down by a factor of five in the past six years and the cost of full photovoltaic systems, inclusive of electronics and wiring, by three. The ‘levelised cost’ (the total cost of installing a renewable-energy system divided by its expected energy output over its lifetime) of rooftop systems is now close to that of retail electricity prices in some countries.

Tokyo escaped because the wind blew away the radioactive clouds. But will Karachi be as lucky?

In the US, electricity from solar panels and wind turbines is expected to become as cheap as standard grid electricity by next year. In India, according to a report released this month by Deutsche Bank, solar will provide 25pc of India’s power capacity by 2022. China added a world record of 23 GW of new wind power capacity in 2014, of which 84pc has already been connected to the grid. In 2013 Denmark’s wind turbines provided a third of the country’s energy supply and Spain’s a fifth. Solar is expected to be the dominant source of energy worldwide within the next 15 years and generate $5 trillion in revenue. Although its intermittent nature necessitates supplements, new energy storage mechanisms have made much progress.

On the other hand, nuclear fission — which powers reactors — has a dismal future. Its global share dwindled from 17pc in 1995 to 10pc in 2013, and global investment in new reactors is about five times less than in renewables. China, which aggressively seeks to export reactors, now has six times more installed capacity in renewables than in nuclear.

Why the change? There are two reasons. First, the world now recognises that fission power makes less and less economic sense. The complexity of reactors, together with enhanced safety features, has sharply increased capital and running costs. Second, and more importantly, majorities in the US, Europe, and Japan think reactors are unsafe even with additional safety features. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than the Chernobyl one, has left people deeply wary of official promises.

Today, March 14, is three days after Fukushima’s fourth anniversary. Japan’s 48 reactors remain shut, and about 120,000 people are homeless. These nuclear refugees fear high radiation levels and worry about cancers, together with other radiation-induced problems. Three of the six reactors at the site had suffered a fuel meltdown and are still in a precarious condition. Using specially developed robots, removal of nuclear fuel debris is expected to continue until 2020 or 2022. Full decommissioning of damaged reactors will take another 30-40 years.

Japan was lucky. Although the nation’s leaders had spoken soothing words to the public, actually they had panicked badly. A 200-page report on the disaster quotes the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as warning that a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns could result in the evacuation of Tokyo, 240 kilometres away.

Tokyo escaped because the wind blew away the radioactive clouds. But will Karachi be as lucky? In 2011, even as explosions were still tearing through the Fukushima complex, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority nonchalantly declared that a similar disaster could never happen here. It issued the following vanilla guarantee: “Due to geographical differences between Pakistan and Japan, the likelihood that similar extreme natural events may occur in the vicinity of the country’s nuclear plants is quite small.”

This is technically correct. Two extreme natural events are unlikely to be similar. But, how would Pakistan deal with massive radioactive release after deliberate sabotage, a terrorist attack, equipment failure, or operator error? The 120,000 of Fukushima could flee, the 20 million of Karachi cannot.

Fukushima did not open our eyes.

Along Karachi’s coast, the construction of two additional 1,100 MW nuclear power plants is under way. Of untested design, they are China’s first export of reactors to another country. A loan offer of $6.8 billion — larger than Pakistan’s annual defence budget — was an important enticement. PAEC, which will operate the plants, and thus hugely increase its size and influence, has recently orchestrated a public relations blitzkrieg. The nuclear plants are slyly linked with national security although, in fact, there is no such connection. A legal challenge by some of Karachi’s worried citizens has been effectively bypassed. Instead, the petitioners have been accused in court as unpatriotic.

Also read: Karachi's citizens fear 'nuclear nightmare'

Pakistan must indeed look towards nuclear energy, but only of the fusion kind. Cheaper by the day, small decentralised solar and wind units offer the best option for households. This will greatly decrease the pressure on gas, oil, and hydro generation and release energy for industry. Instead of chasing outmoded and dangerous 20th-century technology, it is time for us to follow the world into a cleaner, safer 21st century.

The writer holds a doctorate in nuclear physics.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (90) Closed

Rahul Mar 14, 2015 07:20am

Nice article. Even in India where there is a seeming push for nuclear power, the general public as well as governments know that this is not the way. We might just install a few more reactors to fulfil our moral obligations towards the NSG, for the nuclear deal. 1000 MW Chinese reactors in Mumbai. That is impossible. Chinese are good in construction but their engineering abilities will take decades to be world class. So beware.

zak Mar 14, 2015 08:08am

There are other far greater dangers from other sources than nuclear reactors and these nuclear reactors can be termed as one of the most safest forms of energy today, also with sufficient safeguards builtin and the most advanced nuclear reactor technology , we can be assured that no threat to human life or ecology will take place.

Amir Khan Mar 14, 2015 08:10am

Well said sir!! Most of the enlightened world is today moving towards renewable energy. At this point, the general consensus is that only vested interests stop people from embracing renewables.

Mr Khan Mar 14, 2015 08:17am

"Global share (of nuclear energy) dwindled from 17pc in 1995 to 10pc in 2013".

The size of nuclear energy's pie hasn't gone down, the energy pie has grown bigger. Above all, there's more diversity in the energy mix-up (hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, oil, gas, biofuels, etc.)

Agnostic Mar 14, 2015 08:29am

How efficient, economical and easy is it to have Solar power in rural areas?

MoRam Mar 14, 2015 08:42am

I wish people like the author are more mainstream in Pakistan. But, alas, they are very few and far between. And they have no space in popular thinking. Their voices only echoe in wilderness of English press.

shahzeb Mar 14, 2015 08:45am

Great article Once UK queen commented u people are very lucky ....u people can easily solve energy crices through solar energy

ghanshyam Mar 14, 2015 08:46am

Unfortunately india too is pursuing nuclear power. We urge the govt to be extremely cautious.

Confused Mar 14, 2015 08:58am

i fully agree with the writer, that we do not need the nuclear reactors for the energy, solar energy should be sufficient. But we need it for the defense. and deterrant.

OrangGuru Mar 14, 2015 09:15am

Dr. Hoodbhoy presents a clear and logical analysis. Here is hoping the nation's custodians heed the warning (nuclear) and explore the rising opportunity (solar).

Mahesh Kumar Mar 14, 2015 10:05am

I dont think its applicable at commercial level...!! good enough for limited use only or where its a matter of life and death...!! anyhow a good application lets see if it works and relieve for people to what extent.

amit (India) Mar 14, 2015 10:11am

Nice piece - though with some reservations.

The Deutsche report on solar power in India needs to be taken with a pinch of salt - renewable energy (wind + solar) already accounts for almost 10% of India's generation capacity, but contributes only 2% or so of electricity. That's because a wind-mill/solar-power plants operate at 15-16% capacity utilization, as opposed to coal/nuclear power plants which can operate at 80% - so you need 4-5 mw of solar power to replace 1 mw of coal/nuclear. Secondly, solar power requires large area of land - about 5 acres/mw. So to replace 1 mw of coal power, we need 25 acres of land - which is otherwise going to be used for agriculture or has forests. Rooftop solar plants should be installed wherever they can, but they can't generate the gigawatts required to keep a modern economy going.

In the foreseeable future, Pakistan will have to rely on coal, hydro and nuclear power to meet the bulk of its energy needs. All of these have their own pitfalls, so the objective should be to find the least bad option. Here, I think nuclear has some advantages - it is cheaper than coal or hydropower (In India at least), fuel cost is a small part of the costs so electricity doesn't become expensive over time - unlike coal or gas.

On nuclear power, the Pakistan Nuclear Authority's disclaimer about that particular emergency not hitting Karachi is silly. There are two questions that it needs to address - Is there a non-zero risk of a disaster - any disaster? This could be an earthquake, a tsunami or a terror attack. Secondly, in event of such a disaster, are the risks acceptable. I think the answer here is no, given the proximity to Karachi. The solution would be to follow all possible safety protocols, but still site the reactor away from a large city - say maybe in Balochistan, which is very thinly populated.

Been Mar 14, 2015 10:59am

The sites of nuclear power plants are selected after a rigorous process that involves IAEA – the global nuclear watchdog for maintaining best safety and security practices. The sites of the upcoming plants have been approved after tedious consideration of huge data that includes seismic, tsunami-related, meteorological, oceanic and deep underground features. Like the earlier plants in Pakistan, this data has been incorporated into the designs of the power plants.

Bill Schutt Mar 14, 2015 11:01am

I'm curious how someone with a doctorate in physics could write this. Fukushima killed no one and all of the evacuations occurred in areas where there was still less radioactivity than Kerala or Ramsar in Iran. The evacuation was unnecessary. Statistically, nuclear is safer than solar. Fukushima released total radioactivity = 1/30000th of the natural radioactivity in the oceans, and 1/25000000th of the natural radioactivity in the Earth's crust. Both Chernobyl & Fukushima have known causes and it's 100% certain that a reactor with passive safety features & a simple containment dome would have avoided both incidents. People need to be educated about the reality of radioactivity in the environment.

sahil Mar 14, 2015 11:03am

It is disheartening that people of Pakistan have made the installation of nuclear plants a matter of prestige. They should listen to the author who himself is a nuclear scientist. When you can have sources of energy that are safe and pollution free, why do we need reactors...

Kamal Gupta Mar 14, 2015 11:11am

Your fears of nuclear energy accidents are well founded. None of the South Asian countries have the systems or wherewithal to deal with disasters. Solar energy costs have become at par, or even less than fossil fuel power as delivered to users.

In most of India, commercial rates of electricity are around Indian Rs7.50 (higher in places like Bombay, lower in states like Himachal and Uttarakhand). My company is already doing solar power where we not only deliver electricity at grid-par, but also freeze the prices for the next 25 years.

This is helped a lot by "net metering", whereby surplus solar power is fed into the grid. For example, places like schools & courts have long summer vacations when generation is at its peak. The surplus power goes into the grid, alleviating shortages that happen during these times.

Most of Pakistan has long, dry, sunny seasons. Solar would be an answer, especially since it can be set up much faster than coal- or oil-fuelled plants or hydroelectric projects (the latter is also seasonal).

Nikhil Mar 14, 2015 11:16am

Very informative article. Thanks dawn. The opinion section is so much better than our newspapers in India

Haris kayani Mar 14, 2015 11:33am

Its govts always set the path for nations, so its duty of our govt to come forward and give a new direction to our power policy which will make the life easy for common men.

Indian Mar 14, 2015 12:42pm

The present Indian government under Modi who himself is a big fan of solar wants India by 2020 to generate as much as 100,000 MW by solar alone. In his home state Gujarat when he was CM, which is home to largest solar power plant in Asia. The time is ripe to invest money in solar, the costs are getting low day by day and sun is always shining in India. Let us hope coal is driven to the margins which is a dirty fuel.

Pakistani Mar 14, 2015 12:46pm

It is not a matter of one or the other, we should do both. Nuclear for defence and deterrent and solar energy for cheaper electricity.

Luminite Mar 14, 2015 01:05pm

this is very true. The solar panels an be seen in he remote rural areas of Pakistan like Bajaur, Kurram, Khyber. There are on average 5 to six houses in villages near Hangu (Kohat) using this technique and they are quite happy with it, and yet I see rarely any shop or house having a solar panel on its rooftop in Large cities.. they will try to run their shops during the power outages bu Gas or Petrol powered Generator, and you will hear a loud noise of rumming generators when you pass by a market. Peshawar sadar is the worst of all. and you can smell the toxic burned petrol a long way from there. We are Ok with it and don't even bother to speak about it. I asked a shopkeeper about the hazardous consequences of this, he told me to get along with it.. So I think Pakistanis are just getting along with it.

Taimur.S Mar 14, 2015 01:16pm

Going article too many.

rameez arif Mar 14, 2015 01:21pm

nuclear is for base load while solar being weather dependant is for peak loads plz dont compare apples and oranges ..india also building nuclear plants and we have also built QA solar park

M.Saeed Mar 14, 2015 01:30pm

The writer has raised very pertinent and appropriate issues at the right time. But, this government of melon-heads has no eyes or ears for anything good for the people. The "nuclear fusion energy" we get free of cost from the nature's reactor on sun is an unending source of god's own proportion ! It is worthwhile to mention that, just 40 minutes of energy intercepted by Earth from the sun equals the combined energy potential of all fossil fuels that exist on Earth! And, it includes all those fuels that have already been used and their pollution is making the Earth warmer by every second.

Keti Zilgish Mar 14, 2015 01:37pm

For a couple of years now I have been bathing in hot water left in a covered steel container in Karachi's sunlight. Half my food is cooked the same way without any risk of environmental contamination caused by trusting solar energy technology (its not just the terrorists, sometimes posing as taliban who are suicidal, both irresponsible science and technology are undisguised environmental suicide for the human species).

Epic Win Mar 14, 2015 02:11pm

The way things are, we cannot say no to any kind of energy. If we had the luxury of option, nuclear would not have been my first. It wouldn't have been my last either.

Lets build it deeper inland and further away from Karachi, lets make sure it has enough security and take every precaution possible but lets go ahead and build the power plant because we really really do need it

Malik Mar 14, 2015 02:12pm

Denmark is still getting electricity (Nuclear) from France and Germany through trans European Grid while there is no possibility as of now of Trans Asian Grid. This is a huge step considering future uncertainties in case of India. In India ,solar power is connected to distributed lines not transmission lines (due to large fluctuations in nature of Nature). It still requires huge battery arrays .

Jameel ur Rasheed Mar 14, 2015 02:41pm

Nice article.I know a 50 MW wind generation capacity installed in Sindh costing around USD 150M. If you multiply that by ten USD 1,500M and you can get 500 MW and it twice and you will get 1GW in less than USD 3B. This is simple mathematics and with no additional dangers. Further, when you are dealing with such huge projects you tend to get bulky discounts as well. So in comparison when you are generating 2.2 GW of energy with USD 6.8B you can do the same in less than USD 6B with no additional fuel requirements, no added risks to environment and no threat of radioactivity. God forbid, if any thing like Fukushima happens in Pakistan, the entire city of Karachi would turn into a ghost town. It's been four years and country like Japan couldn't resolve the issue how would you expect a country like Pakistan to deal with it. We won't be able to pump the water out of Karachi in ten years. I have bad feeling for these reactors. PAEC has great influence coming from Army who tends to think of national security as thing vulnerable to external threats only. This is bad and what doctor says above, makes sense.

AdHawk Mar 14, 2015 02:43pm

Wait for Dr. Hoodbhoy's articles impatiently. Never disappointed.

Another drawback of fission reactors: waste disposal. Even in the U.S. with its vast land availability this problem remains dicey. Solar, and its derivative wind and wave/tidal sources are the way of the future.

TRUTH Mar 14, 2015 02:48pm

Never seen such a mass campaign against anything...not even against terrorism! It looks something is fishy...

Hussain Mar 14, 2015 02:54pm

Let's not forget the dire circumstances Pakistan is facing. There is an acute shortage of energy in the country which is crippling the already weak economy. Renewable energy projects require huge investments - money that Pakistan doesn't have. In this desperate scenario Pakistan doesn't really have a choice of picking one option over another safer one. Given the condition we just can't say no to a $6 billion loan and 1100 MW of additional energy generation capacity. It's quite simple.

Rathindra Nath Sen Mar 14, 2015 03:10pm

Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy is a theoretical physicist with an international reputation. Are your readers so ignorant that they have to be told that he holds a doctorate? Furthermore, many, if not most doctorates in nuclear physics (I am one of them) would not be sufficiently well-informed to write this article.

Pavas Ambashta Mar 14, 2015 03:23pm

Always love to read your article..Nicely written and well explained..

a_writer Mar 14, 2015 03:31pm

Great article - the best part is the introduction. Before I completely read the sentence starting with '8 light minutes away', I rushed for my calculator triumphantly thinking that I had caught Dr.Hoodbhoy in an error regarding geographical distance to the nearest nuclear powerplant in Pakistan. Before I finished punching in "8 times 3600 times..." I stopped and started laughing at my failure to catch on - simply beautiful, Dr.Hoodbhoy!!

Akram Mar 14, 2015 03:56pm

interesting article, the problem is we have not yet got to the 'tipping point', by that I mean the cost of solar is more expensive than traditional sources like Nuclear. Only when it comes down to the same total cost of ownership will solar take off. By my reckoning, I think that will take another 5 maybe 10 years.

When it does, of course we should go for it, but timing it is important.

syed dawar izhar Mar 14, 2015 04:09pm

how you can neglect the oil mafia? do you think that they will allow you to go on solar or wind energy easily? Is it in their favour if Pakistan reduces its dependency on Oil ? sir you are right in many prospective but you know very well that Pakistan doesnt have enough capital for wind or solar energy and if we dont do anything which is a quick solution of power crisis then we will be far more behind in race of prosperity. Oil companies dont want to promote Solar and wind energy that's why it is still very expensive and complicated. Amit's comments are very informative. You may read his comments.

FUTURE_LIES_WITH_INDIA Mar 14, 2015 04:11pm

Yes, its True that India is heavily investing in Solar Power Projects. Apart from this there are huge also huge Nuclear Power Plants planned like Jaitapur with capacity of 9600 MW.

But, our long term goal is to produce safe and clean energy through Thorium based Nuclear Power Plants as set by Dr. HOMI BABA.

As we know that World's most Thorium reserves are in India and our great scientists defined the long term goals taking into consideration that Indian vast Thorium reserves will help us to acheive those goals.

Thorium reactors will be far safer than the current Uranium reactors as there is no Radiations and Proliferation risks involved in Thorium based reactors.

Reader Mar 14, 2015 04:12pm

A logically written article. Well said Sir. We need to focus on renewable energy both at individual level & state level

FUTURE_LIES_WITH_INDIA Mar 14, 2015 04:13pm

Currently, Most of the Thorium based researches are going on in India only

Tariq, Lahore Mar 14, 2015 04:30pm

Great article Sir! However, our 'elite' leaders/planners do not consider national interests but personal when considering multi-billion deals with foreign entities. This allows 100's millions dollars to be slipped aside to line their pockets. While renewable would benefit the nation far better, are 'small potatoes' in comparison. And this analogy is present throughout our institutions!

Sam R Mar 14, 2015 04:33pm

How many people died in Fukushima? How many die every day due pollution/diseases from coal fired thermal power plants and associated coal mining industry? There's no comparison. MIT professors have said it's possible for nuclear power to be safe and econolical. At the current state of technology, solar/wind power cannot act as a source of the base load power. One of the reasons nuclear power is expensive is that they have to mitigate against fear mongering such as this.

Awais Ali Mar 14, 2015 04:50pm

Very nice article always treat to read Dawn due to such articles. Its time to go for solar and wind energy. Who will guide our govt which so incompetent.

Javeed Mar 14, 2015 04:52pm

Nuclear power plants are no solution! If by chance the equipment fails and there is a radioactive fallout! The consequences could be unimaginable! Please go for alternate sources and abandon the nuclear plants.

R.Kannan Mar 14, 2015 05:03pm

Does Dr Hoodbhoy claim taht for Rs 500,000 we can manage the household energy needs for some years? If so, it would be extremely attarctive for many commercial organisations to mass produce such systems and sell them.

I would also treat the reports like that of Deutsche Bank with some caution. Tamil Nadu has huge wind energy installations but ,during peak days, many are forced to shut off for want of grid evacuation facilities. Renewable energy sources can only handle about 10 -15% of total energy needs based on current world class technologies and even these are not economically feasible. Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi decided to go 100% on renewables and spent Rs 60 Cr but I do not have information on the success of this project. Abdul Kalam initiated this as a demo project and most solar/ wind energy projects in India still need a lot of state support to make them viable. It would be interesting to have Dr Hoodbhoy substantiate the claims by producing facts & figures from completed projects rather than projections which may or may not be realistic.

Dekh Magar Pyaar Se Mar 14, 2015 05:11pm

@zak The guy is a nuclear scientist. Who are you?

Basir Sami Mar 14, 2015 05:40pm

Very informative article. Is it necessary to make such big nuclear plants, can not we make smaller units and install all over the country. When Kanup was inaugurated, they showed on a map that by 1992, there would be plants all over the country. What happened to their plant

atif Mar 14, 2015 05:51pm

projects in pakistan r selected on the basis of kickbacks and not efficiency/ safety

instead of going for metro buses, govt could have subsidized solar tubewells and other solar energy equipment but then who thinks of country

n b Mar 14, 2015 05:59pm

Approach is alright upto a point only. Suppose we use 100% of wind energy and solar energy, will it not effect the environment ? Perhaps there is a limit upto which we can go. Is the limit known to researchers ?

Keti Zilgish Mar 14, 2015 06:14pm

Please bother to inquire from a internet search engine: environmental criticism of solar energy.

Ali Mar 14, 2015 06:20pm

@amit (India) cheapest and best is hydro followed by coal. But coal has environmental and health consequences. But considering India has built damns on the 3 main rivers flowing into Pakistan hydro is less attractive now. But still we need damns for elec and water storage. Best option though not the safest might be nuclear. But more realistically we need a mix of nuclear gas solar and hydro. Gas from Iran is super important and cheap we need it, also India can benefit from that.

Manjeet kocchar Mar 14, 2015 06:57pm

Professor sahab very good writeup . We always wait for your articles which provide lot of insights into the subject

Rao Mar 14, 2015 07:58pm

Absolutely a sound common sense argument.

salman Mar 14, 2015 08:34pm

suberbly written. Clear to understand and informative.

Sajjad Khan Mar 14, 2015 08:36pm

Professor sahib, where would they evacuate 14 milllion Tokyo inhabitants to ???

Sajjad Khan Mar 14, 2015 08:37pm

@Rahul Rahul, but compare the price they are asking for a compared to western nations first.

khanm Mar 14, 2015 09:02pm

@FUTURELIESWITH_INDIA. Please keep on researching while the world will go on without thinking about the thorium. Till the research is completed, the nuclear is the way to go.

Sadam Khan Mar 14, 2015 10:14pm

I would like to draw writers attention towards the renewables he claimed to be the most advanced. The renewables like solar energy and wind energy are the technologies of the early 20th century probably 1911 and the nuclear technology is much more advanced now. Pakistan is going to install 3rd generation ap-1000 plants and here writer says this design has never been tested.... Dear this design has be proposed to make this energy more secure by passive cooling systems and double containment structure. So there shouldnt be any doubt in its safety...secondly the writer gave refernces to some of his own solar systems installed at home and he told its cost around 5 lac rupees. Mr writer can you please tell me how many people in pakistan can afford this amount.. Hardly 5 percent and what should we do for the remaining 95pc.thirdly writer said it is unsafe to install a plant in any big city like karachi... Yes you are right, govt must shift them to the areas where population density is quite low. So finally, it is not right to say nuclear power is irrelevant when more than 500 reactors are working world wide.. And due to secret and complex nature of work not everyone can invest in this venture. It is technology and technology is always costly.

Modi Mar 14, 2015 11:11pm

@Nikhil Hi he one of the best scientist in Pakistan, I can say precious diamond lying in coal mine, where nobody cares for him.i wished he must have moved to India long time ago as we need talented People like him. He must have given great boost to science and rational thinking in India.

Third Party Mar 14, 2015 11:34pm

@zak You can never better than a Nuclear scientist...So plss..

AYZA Mar 15, 2015 12:24am

What an excellent illustration by Dr. Hoodbhoy in how an individual in a developing and energy strapped nation like Pakistan can be self reliant when it comes to power and energy sources.

We also utilize solar and geo-thermal energy sources, and collect rain water which is diverted for watering the gardens. Actually Pakistan is the ideal country to implement adobe brick construction which has been used for thousands of years in the Subcontinent. If this material is used, there's no need for heating or air conditioning : ) since adobe or mud walls if thick enough can be stablized by mixing straw and very little concrete to retain heat in the winter and stay cool in hot summers.

Tahir A Mar 15, 2015 12:30am

I am 100% convinced our next source of usable energy is going to come from another planet. US is working hard at it under wraps. It will be beamed to planet earth via satellite substations situated in the space.

AYZA Mar 15, 2015 12:30am

Dr. Hoodbhoy should be appointed Minister of Water and Power instead of the present Nawaz appointee, Khawaja Muhammad Asif who has no science or technical qualifications. Perhaps IK and PTI will once finally voted into power? It's a pity that honest, intelligent and progressive individuals have no place in the Nawaz government anyway : ((

Yawar Mar 15, 2015 12:52am

Solar may be OK for homes but it is way too expensive for producing electricity to put on the grid. After hydro power, the nuclear energy option is best way to go to create electricity without enhancing global warming.

Yawar Mar 15, 2015 01:01am

The main reason for the Fukushima disaster is that the Japanese do not have a questioning attitude. If they did, someone out of the thousands of Japanese workers and engineers familiar with the Fukushima reactors would have questioned the insufficient height of the sea wall and the low location of the diesel generators and electrical cables that failed because of the sea water.

fida sayani USA Mar 15, 2015 01:11am

I suggest Dr. Hoodbhoy of Harvard will be a right choice to be appointed as a head of Nuclear Commission for Pakistan. Most of Pakistani foreign educated are generally big mouth with emotional Paralysis. Rarely one comes across a stable educated Pakistani, maybe it is there religious germs. Jinnah was one exception.

Moody Yeller Mar 15, 2015 09:27am

@zak Where will you bury all the spent fuel rods which are radioactive for thousands of years? Human civilization is only about 10,000 years old. Also, if Chinese reactors are so safe, why didn't they install them first in their own country (per Hoodbhoy)?

Moody Yeller Mar 15, 2015 09:33am

@Agnostic A point that the good professor did not mention is the concomitant need for conservation (that is using less electricity) and greater efficiency. The research into nuclear fusion is still going, though progress is not very visible. This article ties in neatly with the author's contributions on need for improved science education. Regardless, this was a very good eye-opening article. The cost of renewable energy sources - like solar and wind - will come down sharply as demand rises (as the the so-called economies of scale as well as scope are exploited).

Moody Yeller Mar 15, 2015 09:44am

@TRUTH Why don't you offer your own fact-based counter-arguments and let the readers decide whom to believe and trust? Manufacturing conspiracy theories is not the way to win arguments. Reason and good evidence is.

Moody Yeller Mar 15, 2015 09:51am

@Akram It is all economics and we all play a part in it. Taxation of old, dirty technology and concurrent subsidies for clean renewable energy is the way to wean people off the old grid onto the new "Intelligent" grid. Disrupti9ve technologies are not pain-free but the long-term benefits exceed the pain.

tariq rizwan Mar 15, 2015 10:29am

Why people are after China-Pakistan joint cooperation at the behest of others. Mr, u could have better suggested solar energy projects instead of raising any possible threat of sabotage which is not possible at all. Ur aim is to malign the country and undermine our fullproof security system of our nuclear system.

noor badshah Mar 15, 2015 10:50am

Pak China joint ventures specially nuclear reactors are well thought projects and should not be maligned. Solar energy is also the need of the hour.

rajendra asthana Mar 15, 2015 10:51am

@Rathindra Nath Sen thanks for enlightening us that you have a Doctorate in Nuclear Physics, and yokels like us, me included have no business to dabble into pros and cons of nuclear versus renewable sources of energy. Was Issac Asimov a Ph.D. in nuclear Physics? Was Karl Popper who has written the seminal book "The logic of scientific Discovery" a Ph.D. in nuclear Physics? Arnold Toynbee said that democracy of intellect was the gift of the West to entire humanity. Any attempt to take away this right by WOG Ph.D.s in Nuclear Physics is despicable, and would be resisted by lumpens like me.

pakiboy Mar 15, 2015 02:33pm

have a degree with nuclear written in it .. and u become champion of science as well as engineering .. totally stupid claims .. nuclear tech is totally safe .. and the chasma-1 plant was also prototype or better to say first plant by china .. and the strict codes to design and running of plants dont let any loose ends .. so please dont misguide people .. if u can not getting any attention !!

Prashant Mar 15, 2015 03:47pm

One data point. In Bangalore you DO NOT get occupancy certificate unless you install solar water heater on your newly built house. So in Bangalore every new house mandatory will have Solar panels. That's all thanks.

mjk Mar 15, 2015 06:53pm

"A loan offer of $6.8 billion — larger than Pakistan’s annual defence budget " - habitual beggars of loans, who ois going to pay back this loan ? I guess our leadership will get another loan to pay back this loan.

Shayan Mar 15, 2015 09:38pm

Renewable energy is the way forward. We need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Moody Yeller Mar 15, 2015 10:03pm

@rajendra asthana Apples and oranges, no? Why not offer your own reasoned counterpoint, if you have any. Who would give better advice about cancer than a trained oncologist or one with an MA in art history?

Zaheerul hassan Mar 15, 2015 11:00pm

Nuclear Energy is the solution to Pakistan energy crisis . China, India and USA is using nuclear reactors to produce electric city. Pakistan has elaborate safety arrangements of its plants. Thus, the writer should not worry about Pakistan Nuclear Programme. China and Russian are already helping India in producing electricity too. Solar Energy is very costly affair in the long run.

rajendra asthana Mar 15, 2015 11:30pm

@Moody Yeller I sent my reasoned counterpoints two days back, The Dawn has not published it.? They must be having their reasons, after-all the big brother watches over their shoulder too.

ayaz Mar 16, 2015 07:18am

few months ago ... I came across by couple of technicians when they were visiting my house for installing air conditioner. they were discussing the advancement and impact of solar power system and were trying to convince me to install solar power system in my house. i asked the procedure and all the expenditure it can cost including their installing wages etc which barely cost me 5oo0$ to 7000$. and now after reading this blog. i am getting to a point where i can put this advice in consideration.

and about karachi being under the nuclear disaster shadow. i agreed to this cent percent. Governement must take step to prevent such natural devastation.

ayaz Mar 16, 2015 07:21am

@AYZA i totally agreed with your opinion. but we as a nation don't deserve such geniuses in our command.

Biaa Shahid Mar 16, 2015 10:59am

Nuclear power is safe and is the most reliable source of power generation in this 21st century. Pakistan is passing through a huge energy shortfall and in this time of crises nuclear power is the best available option. The site of newly planned nuclear power plants in Karachi have been selected after a rigorous inspection and proper investigation. Concerns raised by anti nuclear lobby in Pakistan are ungrounded and are getting hyped out of nothing. The construction of power pants have been remained enough delayed and now GOP without any further delay must start working on the said power plants so that to make country come out of energy crises.

Muhammad Ashtar Mar 16, 2015 11:34am

These are the most sane and wise words but only if someone may heed . Sun is the ultimate source of energy on earth. Energy in wind and flowing water also comes from sun . Even the energy present in fossil fuels belongs to sun. According to some safe estimates sun is going to keep burning for coming half a million years with full intensity. Now it will be bad luck if we remain unable to harness this cheapest and most abundant source of energy. While China and other countries are taking significant steps to develop alternative energy resources we are lagging behind. As mentioned by author both at national and individual levels we need to give attention to this resource . I do agree with the writer about risks of nuclear energy. We should try to reduce our dependence on nuclear energy. We should also try to install our reactors away from concentrated population centres.

yogaish Mar 16, 2015 08:07pm

Nuclear safety is need of hour for developed and 2nd world countries. One thing i have to say here that Mr. Hoodbhoy is look very similar to Bill Gates.

Kumar Mar 16, 2015 09:38pm

@Pakistani Civilian nuclear reactor have no contribution to defense. They are very low enriched uranium and usually supplier of fuel takes back the spent fuel. Reprocessing is difficult and not allowed.

Irfan Mar 17, 2015 02:15am

Well, I happened to stay in Eastern Afghanistan for sometime and noticed that almost every household was using Solar electricity. why don't the government gives this option a thought to go solar for filling the gap in demand and supply. In U.S a government program is offering every home owner a free of cost solar equipment, on top of that they also promise to reduce their electricity bills by 60%. I am sure if our government has taken the same step, we all are for it....

Zahira Mar 17, 2015 10:41am

A big shift must say! There is a strong emphasis on nuclear energy for Pakistan as it is cheaper and efficient. The contents of above account clearly indicated that Pakistan is not at the first country who would be lining up for the civilian usage of nuclear energy. The nuclear regulatory authorities of Pakistan know much better that what the needs of a country than anyone else are. The design of ACP1000 for Karachi nuclear power plants is not at all new as it is the enhanced version of Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) which has long been in use. The acute energy shortfall in Pakistan can be addressed only by the efficient and cheaper energy source like the nuclear. We need to invest only one time in building nuclear power reactors than it would suffice the needs of not only present but of future generations perfectly.

Arif Belgaumi Mar 17, 2015 11:12am

@zak Read what you have written. Do you even believe it. Every installed technology at the time of installation is the best, most advanced technology available. But unforeseen accidents happen. This is in the nature of all human endeavours. We are imperfect and so is our technology. People who understand and acknowledge this take necessary precautions. Such as not parking the reactors so close to the largest urban population in Pakistan. Is the safety and security of Karachi more important to the future of Pakistan than a few nuclear power stations, which can be located somewhere else.

Muhammad Aijaz Umer Mar 18, 2015 11:10pm

I already commented on the topic and I have plenty of thoughts on this topic but I am waiting for posting my earlier comments.

Danial Soorty Mar 20, 2015 09:55am

I see your point, but I am concerned of the costs associated with wind and solar. In brief terms, they are not economically viable without government subsidies. The biggest hurdle to sole reliance on renewables such as wind and solar is the lack of energy storage options during periods of lowered generation. I agree with you that we should most definitely not be installing un-tested Chinese Primary Water Reactors (PWRs), especially since the current reactors that are being built in China are being constructed by US companies. If they cannot do it themselves for themselves, why would they do it for us, unless we are going to be their 'test' case. We must be wary of this and reconsider such an option. Nuclear energy produces about 20% of the United State's energy, and it does so successfully. With any large chemical/nuclear industry, the safety risks always exist and the only way to mitigate is to ensure the proper safety precautions are in place. Nuclear fission reactors have come a long way since their inception and are going to continue to be a source of energy in the future. In fact, more environmental lobbying groups are pointing towards nuclear as a carbon free source of energy compared with coal and gas. For a country with nuclear weapons, Pakistan's lack of investment in Nuclear energy is a strength we are not exploiting, and must use our expertise and work with international nuclear vendors to develop this technology. If the nuclear conglomerates of the world are working with China, Iran, the middle east, why can Pakistan not acquire the services of a Russian, French, or United States organization to support this effort.