Regulator discounts chances of radiation leak from N-plants

Published March 15, 2015
Much of the criticism of the planned nuclear power plants on the outskirts of Karachi is related to public fears of a likely radiation leak that could be hazardous for the city’s population.  — Reuters/file
Much of the criticism of the planned nuclear power plants on the outskirts of Karachi is related to public fears of a likely radiation leak that could be hazardous for the city’s population. — Reuters/file

ISLAMABAD: Though the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) is yet to study the preliminary safety analysis report on Karachi’s upcoming nuclear power plants K-2 and K-3, it is confident about low chances of leak of radioactive material.

The confidence about the plants being safe is based on the planned double containment wall that the nuclear reactors would have -- the external wall reportedly being strong enough to endure the impact of a commercial jetliner crashing into it.

Read: Karachi's citizens fear 'nuclear nightmare'

Much of the criticism of the planned nuclear power plants on the outskirts of Karachi is related to public fears of a likely radiation leak that could be hazardous for the city’s population.

The groundbreaking of 2200MW K-2 and K-3 nuclear power plants was performed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in November 2013. The government is planning to have seven 1100MW plants in 10 years to achieve the target of 8800MW by 2030.

Also read: No major threat by nuclear power plants to environment, says research group

“The K-2 and K-3 reactors are planned to have a double containment wall due to which there are very little chances of release of radioactivity into the environment, if not zero,” said PNRA Director General Zaheer Ayub Baig at a seminar on ‘Overview of the Nuclear Safety Regime in Pakistan’ at the conference hall of a local think tank, Strategic Vision Institute.

With this assumption in mind, PNRA thinks that smaller ‘exclusion’ and ‘low population density zones’ could be approved in case of K-2 and K-3.

Also read: Nuclear plants project: Certain facts not being made public for strategic reasons, SHC told

“Internationally, there are no prescribed distances. Size of such zones is normally based on the expected radioactive release in case of an accident or emergency,” Mr Baig said and admitted that in case of K-2 and K-3 the ‘exclusion’ and ‘low population’ density zones were not big.

(Separately talking to Dawn, Mr Baig said he believed that a low population density zone of 7-8km would be enough.)

He said the area surrounding K-2 and K-3 already had low population density due to absence of groundwater and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), the operator of the plants, had reached an agreement with the Karachi Development Authority for not allowing urban development activities in the surrounding area.

K-2 and K-3 plants will have both active and passive security measures.

Mr Baig said the design of the planned reactors could withstand an earthquake of 9 magnitude on Richter scale even though the maximum expected earthquake magnitude in the area was 8 on Richter scale.

The most severe earthquake to have hit the area in the past was measured 7 on the Richter scale.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2015

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