KARACHI: Ignoring concerns on building twin nuclear power plants close to the city, the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) has accorded approval to the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and allowed its construction at Paradise Point, it emerged on Friday.
The project — K-2 and K-3 power plants of 1,100MW each — is to be built by a Chinese company while the government agency involved in the project is the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).
The project had been in the media spotlight for quite some time with representatives of civil society organisations raising a number of reservations over it. The concerns ranged from the close proximity of the project to the city, failure of the PAEC to conduct a fresh EIA of the project, to the lack of a proper evacuation plan in case of an emergency (the EIA report of the PAEC has restricted the evacuation plan to only 5km, though critics of the project are of the opinion that the entire city is at a risk of nuclear radiation exposure given the fact that the wind blows from the plant site to Karachi most part of the year).
The environmental agency, however, has allowed the PAEC to build the project at the same site (proposed in its EIA report) at Paradise Point near Kanupp, without asking the commission to increase the area in the evacuation plan.
Environmental impact assessment report of the twin plants approved despite civil society’s concerns
“After a careful review of the environmental impact assessment, Sepa accords approval subject to the compliance of the following conditions,” says a letter dated May 19.
All mitigation measures recommended in the EIA report, the letter says, must be complied with for achieving negligible impacts on physical, biological, environmental and socio-economic resources of Karachi.
“The National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS) for ambient air quality, noise, exhaust emissions, wastewater and drinking water shall be followed in letter and spirit. No untreated effluent shall be discharged from the plant to the marine or terrestrial ecosystem,” it says.
A contingency plan, it says, should be developed to immediately counteract any mishap, fire etc and should be in place 24 hours a day to handle any type of emergency while fuel, oil and other chemicals should be handled in a such a manner to avoid spills and leakage.
Though the approval letter says that the proponent shall strictly adhere to the replies/clarifications submitted in response to the concerns of various stakeholders and calls upon it to incorporate those in its Environment Management Plan (EMP), it doesn’t not specify the kind of replies/clarifications given by the PAEC.
The letter gives prominent space to local communities’ concerns and calls upon the proponent to respond to their immediate needs to improve the quality of their life.
“The PAEC must try to ensure that the communities living in the surrounding areas are provided better infrastructure facilities including safe drinking water, education and health, besides provision of employment opportunities and sustainable livelihood support schemes.”
The PAEC has also been asked to engage an independent monitoring body to ensure compliance of the project to the EMP, to document the status of the project at the end of every quarter starting from the inception of the project and to submit its findings to Sepa.
“Each effluent discharge path shall be monitored for radioactivity prior to discharge. The effluent monitoring system shall continuously record the radioactivity levels in the plant air exhaust and the liquid discharge streams and will have interlocks to stop the release to the environment if radioactivity discharge exceeds preset limits.
“The K-2/K-3 physical security plan shall be established in accordance with national Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) regulations and guidelines provided in the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear security series No.13 to maintain routine security actions and deal with a range of possible security contingencies.”On radioactive gaseous emissions, the PAEC has been asked to set up a relevant system to ensure that the total plant gaseous release is as low as reasonably achievable and meets the requirements of the PNRA.
The commission has also been directed to establish adequate facilities for safe handling and disposal of low and medium level waste at the site as per PNRA standards. “The nature of the proposed activity warrants strict adherence with the EMP and its effective monitoring. The implementation of the EMP would be the sole responsibility of the project management. The mitigation measures mentioned in the EIA must be complied without fail.”
There are also conditions relating to occupational safety in the letter that calls upon the commission to set up a complete code of health, safety and environment.
The EIA report was approved following a public hearing which was held on orders of the Sindh High Court that had stayed the construction of the project last year.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2015