THIS is with reference to the article ‘Response to a nuclear disaster’ (Aug 18). Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) would like to correct the alarmist insinuations and factual errors made by the authors. They could have avoided these mistakes if they had contacted the PAEC, which deals with all matters related to the siting of nuclear power plants, construction, operation, decommissioning and their waste management. It works in close liaison with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and its provincial offshoots.

Pakistan takes nuclear safety and security very seriously and its record is a gold standard repeatedly recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). All international practices have been followed and the safety and security features have been observed for the two plants under construction in Karachi. These plants will add 2,200 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by 2021.

Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) maintains a 24/7 check over all radiological and nuclear safety and security matters of PAEC. The regulatory authority is independent and ensures that all operations are within the guidelines set by IAEA. Pakistan is a responsible nuclear power that takes nuclear safety and security as a national responsibility. Inter alia other international obligations, Pakistan is a signatory to Convention on Nuclear Safety, Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident. An elaborate and foolproof mechanism is in place to meet these obligations and to ensure that Pakistanis continue to benefit from nuclear energy.

Nuclear power plants are sited and constructed under highest safety standards that are internationally considered strictest industrial standards – surpassing even the ones followed in aircraft manufacturing. The upcoming plants are of latest generation and have state of the art safety features like double containment wall that remove the risks mentioned in the article.

To deal with any nuclear safety and security incident, a comprehensive and foolproof system is in place in Pakistan. Nuclear Emergency Management System (NEMS) operate 24/7. The plans for nuclear emergencies are elaborate and take care of concerns raised in the article.

The authors have incorrectly stated that two nuclear power plants being built near Karachi are part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The decision to construct these plants predates conception of CPEC.

Constructing a nuclear plant is a tedious and careful process that takes years. Before a licence to construct a reactor is issued, a public hearing is a mandatory requirement. The Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) held these hearing before the projects for Karachi Nuclear Power Plants – II and III — were launched. All stakeholders were invited by SEPA through publishing of public notices in leading newspapers of the country. Unfortunately, these two authors avoided showing their concerns.

Shahid Riaz Khan
Spokesperson, PAEC
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2019