Pakistan can’t handle Fukushima

Published: March 22, 2011

A person, who is believed to be have been contaminated with radiation, in a white bag is carried by soldiers at a radiation treatment centre in Nihonmatsu city in Fukushima prefecture on March 13, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

Ten days after the earthquake tsunami, Japan still teetered at the knife-edge of a major nuclear disaster. Four hydrogen explosions reduced three buildings in the 6-reactor Fukushima nuclear complex to smoking ruins. Radioactive plumes triggered a level-5 emergency, and evacuations were ordered up to a 20-kilometre radius. A heroic effort finally prevented a melt-down of spent-fuel rods and averted catastrophic consequences but reactor fires are still burning.
If nothing else works, plans call for pouring thousands of tons of concrete and turning the reactors into permanent nuclear tombs.

On the positive side: the disaster management was excellent. Stoic and disciplined, the Japanese behaved wonderfully well. No looting, no panic, and no anti-government demonstrations followed the explosions. People helped each other, relief teams operated unobstructed, and rescuers had full radiation protection gear. Plant operators risked their lives by working in super-high radiation environments, and engineers showed their grasp of emergency reactor dynamics.

On the negative side: even elaborate earthquake-protection and tsunami-protection measures failed badly. Power sources for emergency cooling pumps were destroyed by the 30-foot high wall of water. In retrospect, storing thousands of spent-fuel rods on the reactor site turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Japan’s near tragedy has reminded the world that situating reactors close to a city can be exceedingly dangerous – even more than storing nuclear bombs within it. While a nuclear reactor cannot explode like a bomb, after one year of operation even a rather small 200MW reactor contains more radioactive cesium, strontium, and iodine than the amounts produced in all the nuclear weapons tests ever conducted.

These devastatingly deadly materials could be released if the containment vessel of a reactor is somehow breached.

As the Japanese continue their struggle to bring Fukushima’s reactors under control, they know they had falsely gambled that nuclear reactors could be safe against earthquakes. Still, there was some logic to this risk-taking: Japan’s energy hungry economy gets about 30per cent of its electricity from its 55 nuclear reactors.

Pakistan has much less reason to risk Karachi, its largest city. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, (KANUPP) located by the seashore, produces little electricity. This Canadian supplied reactor has been in operation since December 1972, but according to IAEA statistics, has been unavailable for power production 70.4 per cent of the time. Even if it had operated as per design (120MW of electrical power), it could supply only six-seven per cent of Karachi’s total electrical power needs – barely enough for Golimar and Lyari.

Nevertheless KANUPP puts the Karachi’s population at risk. Sabotage, terrorist attack, equipment failure, earthquake, or a tsunami could result in large scale radioactive release. As in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the instinctive reaction of the authorities would be to cover up the facts.

But with the breeze mostly directed towards Karachi, the population would surely have to be evacuated. The rich and the fortunate would succeed; the rest would not. Unlike the orderly and disciplined evacuation of post-tsunami Fukushima, all hell would break loose as millions would try to flee. Looters would strip everything bare, roads would be clogged, and vital services would collapse.

Japan’s nuclear disaster should open our eyes. Japan is an advanced industrialised country with superior engineering knowledge and practices. It has a safety culture, Pakistan does not. Whether driving cars or running nuclear plants, Pakistanis are risktakers looking for shortcuts, choosing to put their faith in God rather than precautions.

It would not be surprising if our nuclear plant operators overlook critical safety procedures. Little is known about operating procedures because everything nuclear is kept under wraps, ostensibly for reasons of national security. This also covers up for bad practices.

The shoulder-shrugging nonchalance of Pakistani authorities during the Japan disaster is particularly disturbing. Even as explosions tore through the nuclear complex, the “experts” flatly declared that a Fukushima could never happen in Pakistan. This outlandish claim cost them nothing, of course, because officials and other high-ups in Pakistan have never paid the price for false statements. A real nuclear disaster in Pakistan would see PAEC, PNRA, and our “great scientists” – who provide endless vanilla-flavoured reassurances – running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They would be clueless in dealing with a situation that threatens the lives of millions.

The only thing they would know is how to run away fast.

It is time to down-size Pakistan’s nuclear fission power production.

While remaining a perpetual danger, nuclear technology has not met any reasonable fraction of Pakistan’s energy needs. After nearly half a century of investing in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission – and the billions of dollars spent upon creating its infrastructure – only two per cent of Pakistan’s installed nuclear capacity is nuclear. The actual production is less than even this.

India has not done well either. Only six per cent of Indian electricity is nuclear.

Clearly, nuclear electricity is not cheap or easy.

Contrary to popular public perception, Pakistan’s power reactors also make no contribution to Pakistan’s bombmaking capacity – the fissile material for these is produced elsewhere. Therefore there are multiple reasons why the search for more fission power must be shelved. Until nuclear fusion power becomes available after some decades, Pakistan, like other countries, must rely on a mix of oil, gas, hydro, coal, solar, wind, and other renewables.

The author is a nuclear physicist and holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2011.

Reader Comments (76)

  • Zazi
    Mar 22, 2011 - 8:29AM

    Thank you for your usually informative articles on nuclear technology, especially the pitfalls of a core meltdown. However, how do you rate Thorium based nuclear fuel? On March 20th,2011 The Daily Telegraph had an article on China racing ahead with Thorium nuclear power plants, as this offered a safer environment in the event of a disaster. Could not Pakistan take this safer route?? I am attaching the article from which I am quoting and would appreciate your comment. Thanks.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8393984/Safe-nuclear-does-exist-and-China-is-leading-the-way-with-thorium.htmlRecommend

  • John
    Mar 22, 2011 - 8:31AM

    Nuclear power in all countries do not supply 100% of electricity demand. Given that scenario it is inevitable that the world would have to rely on fission reactors for a while until fusion reactors become a reality.

    If the power generation is up to its installed capacity, then the plant is worth operating, provided safety is maintained by constant transparent independent body. Even in US reactors have problem but they are checked and safety report is made available to public.

    Following Japan turmoil, India issued immediate evaluation of safety of its existing reactors.

    It is unfortunate, PAK failed to do so, even while they are discussing Ind-US nuclear deal as discriminatory to PAK. Recommend

  • Kazmis
    Mar 22, 2011 - 8:37AM

    The Author very much appreciated Japanese in handling Fukushima disaster tactfully and efficiently. But How? They are brave or dutiful enough but just pouring water valiantly other wise many plant are looking like scrap. Fukushima plants will go CAPED under concrete sooner or later. Japanese delaying this in hope to control plants after cooling down. The Nuclear fuel will never cool down and ultimately required to be caped out but until that time radiation will challenge the authorities to evacuate TOKYO. KANUPP if came under any disaster would have to be caped soon. Why scientist will be running here and there. Delaying the Capping the plant gives high exposure of the radiation. If disaster happens it is the sad part to Capped the plant. Chernobyl authorities delayed this process due to contineous fire in the plant hence lot of people affected by the radiation.Recommend

  • Uzair Javaid
    Mar 22, 2011 - 8:45AM

    As I expected just reading the caption that this would be another masterpiece by the great hoodbhoy! the one who belongs to a clan which is well paid and informed to spread disinformation on the security and integrity of both Pakistan and its nuclear program. I was actually looking for something like Hoodbhoy puts it: It is time to down-size Pakistan’s nuclear fission power production. This is clearly what he is paid for. To create a public perception that we are at risk. I can agree to the fact that we have enough coal to make address our energy needs, but the way hoodbhoy puts things is clearly misleading people to get scared and ask for its shutdown. Disasters happen and even Japan couldn’t stand to a 30feet wave of water! so its just bad luck according to your set of belief, we Muslims think its just a Calamity that was destined by Allah upon them.
    A TIME WASTING ARTICLERecommend

  • Free Hussaini
    Mar 22, 2011 - 8:52AM

    If the IMF and the U.S. do not pump in the needed funds and the government is forced to print money to pay the salaries, would it cause inflation–and of what magnitude?Recommend

  • Mar 22, 2011 - 9:11AM

    Wow, Perviaz shab get another “point” to hit Pakistan`s atomic weapons.Recommend

  • Zazi
    Mar 22, 2011 - 9:20AM

    There is also a good article in NY Times today (linked below) criticising the Japanese Regulator for having incestous ties with the Operator, Tokyo Power and Electric, that produced a conflict of interest when results of inspections showing effects of aging and poor maintenance in a place like Japan, especially at the 40 year old Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant, where corrosion had damaged the generators etc., to supply power as a standby sources. The Tsunami coupled with the earthquake damaged the plant which already had issues that were hidden or papered over by the Operator UItility, Tokyo Power and Electric. Therefore, even in Japan with all its qualities of professionalism and honour there lies an undercurrent of poor practices that helped to make the disaster at the Daiichi Plant.

    In Pakistan where we have an environment of impunity against all illegal acts and practices I completely agree with you Professor Hoodbhoy that a Fukushima type incident would have been catastrophic. Perhaps millions would be effected by the silent killer “Radiation”, which the Government would have described as an Act of God and not failings on its own part. A greater act of Impunity if ever there was one.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/asia/22nuclear.html?_r=1&hpRecommend

  • Sajjad
    Mar 22, 2011 - 9:25AM

    I totally agree with Dr. Sb. We should use alternative ways for generation of electricity.
    There is huge technological difference between Pakitan and Japan. Recommend

  • Hafeez
    Mar 22, 2011 - 9:58AM

    Well written and it really makes sense. I hope our policy makers heed the advice and prevent any disaster arising out of unnecessary adventure.Recommend

  • ba ha
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:00AM

    A mullah with a bull horn is more dangerous than a ticking nuclear reactor. lets decommission bothRecommend

  • Truth_Prevails
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:03AM

    “A son asks his dad to get him a bicycle. The dad refuses on the grounds that if you fell off it, you will get hurt. Instead of teaching him safety principles, ensuring he uses proper safety gear & drives the bicycle on proper lanes, the dad simply refused to get the lad a bicycle!”. That’s your story Mr. Hoodhboy. That’s your story!
    You continue talking about Pakistanis using short cuts and bla bla… Just Stop it! Stop trying to make fun of Pakistani scientists. Just tell us what research of yours [IF ANY????] has ever helped Pakistan or its “uncivilized” population.
    Putting faith in God means using all precautions available and praying to him for his help. But, YES! your “LIBERAL EXTREMISM” wouldn’t uderstand this at all!!!!Recommend

  • Raza
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:03AM

    a bit rational only, otherwise mis-informed.Recommend

  • TM
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:22AM

    How is this a news story? Posting personal views under the label of news(Top News!) is totally misleading.Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Haider
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:27AM

    Very well articulated!Recommend

  • Saud
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:29AM

    I agree with your point of view on KANUPP that it may not be worth the risk being close to a major city, providing very little power and being at the end of its useful life.

    However, I don’t see how you can use this as an argument to give up on nuclear power altogether at a time when the rest of the world is increasingly turning to it to replace fossil fuel. Reactors should be located in remote areas and be designed keeping in mind such eventualities as Fukushima.Recommend

  • Nurmomad
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:47AM

    A timely call for sanity, which is most likely going to fall on deaf (read patriotic) ears

    Thanks Dr. Hoodbhoy Recommend

  • Jupiter
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:03AM

    Never let a good crisis go to waste in bashing Pakistan.

    Last time I checked Japanese government lied about the leakages. As we speak western US is blanketed with radioactive materials and soon the world will be. As for disaster scenario for Pakistan you can write a report and submit to government on it instead of bashing Pakistan like all regressive Pakistanis. Recommend

  • Jupiter
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:05AM

    This is the rest of the world which regressive Pakistani like to romanticize.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ListsofnucleardisastersandradioactiveincidentsRecommend

  • Moise
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:06AM

    Why this is top news?Recommend

  • Anoop
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:09AM

    Pakistanis till date have not been able to handle a simple thing like Democracy forget about a nuclear plant. And, to think of it Pakistan wanted a India-style nuclear deal and play with the big boys! Yeah, right.Recommend

  • Eeman
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:18AM

    If, according to your article, KANUPP is not producing electricity 70.4% of its time then that means the control rods are being inserted between fuel rods and the fission reaction is not going on. If that’s the case, then indeed, the reactor doesn’t pose any serious risk as it’s not fully operational. But for sure, it poses risk 29.6% of its time. Recommend

  • sajjad_gill@hotmail.com
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:25AM

    Well, the matter rightly highlighted by the author, however there appears to be a clear biaseness towards the country and its scientists. Recommend

  • a ercelan
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:27AM

    good of hoodbhoy to worry about kanupp. but chashma reactors are no less dangerous since they would threaten an entire river system, endangering people and agriculture over a vast area.
    further, kanupp threatens not just karachi but also much of the coastal area, not excluding large cities like hyderabad and thatta from winds. Fisheries would be devastated, both marine and riverine.Recommend

  • Yu Chang
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:45AM

    To handle a Fukushima, they require our manuals to be translated from Mandrin to Urdu:-(Recommend

  • Mar 22, 2011 - 11:45AM

    A reallity worth pondering about.it is pertinent to say that if this nuclear reactor is not helping the city with much power why to have such a dangerous reactor so close to the city of Karachi.how will our govt.. Will cope with such a disaster?Recommend

  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Mar 22, 2011 - 12:13PM

    Very informative as well as disturbing article. Yes, apprehensions highlighted in the article are true. God forbids, we don’t have any capability nor capacity to face these types of disasters other than offering ourselves to die and loss of whatever one had in his/her lifetime. Something must be done on war footings. Bells must ring in the ears of those who matter most.Recommend

  • Mar 22, 2011 - 12:35PM

    @Pervez Hoodbhoy

    I pray that you never read “2012…..the end of the world”…………In that case you would have pointed out that before terrorist or nature strike Minar e Paksitan down,, its better we go for a control explosive technique.

    We are playing with nukes for over 3 decades…………any thing to support your logic???strange why people humiliate themselve so proudly………..Recommend

  • Sengathir
    Mar 22, 2011 - 12:43PM

    One more chance to put both India and Pakistan on same line. In India’s case, it is still worse..Our PM has shot in the air that everything is fine, without any audit….Recommend

  • Kazmis
    Mar 22, 2011 - 12:51PM

    Author’s article is very interesting. In fact Japanese are doing nothing except cooling the reactors. They know that can not cool down the nuclear fuel since such practices can not extinguish the fuel rods. Japanese have a closed culture in which one can not refuse the seniors. All firefighter and engineers who are working on the plant to restore electric and cooling the system are endangering their life by already higher radiation. What Author is appreciating since all these practices are fruitless and the reactors are to be CAPED ultimately. The did their best to disperse the radioactive cloud by showering water from helicopter in results of that soil and sea water have contaminated heavily with radioactivity. In my opinion they have to evacuate TOKYO at the earliest. Authors statement that Pakistani scientist will be running here and there in case something similar happens to KANUPP is unfair. The futile practices to cool down the plant unnecessary is useless it is better to CAP the reactor so as radiation can not spread far, and they can do it. Japanese practices will contaminate whole region including Korea, Taiwan and Russia. Then how is that a good practice? Japanese plant were very old and had developed many faults Sydney herald reported that fuel vessel of Diaichi had already developed cracks two years back. There were some intentional negligence.Recommend

  • sarim
    Mar 22, 2011 - 12:59PM

    excellent article but hoodbhoy should have offered a solution in detail. he should also explained what would happen to Kahuta and other weapons installation if let us say there is a 8.8 earthquake. do we know that these installation of earthquake proof but can they sustain a 9.1 earthquakeRecommend

  • Kazmis
    Mar 22, 2011 - 1:00PM

    @John:
    India did convene a meeting to review nuclear power plants. But you know they decided that “they have good practice for safety and will go ahead and if you have any good solution to enhance more security, come forward.”Recommend

  • Ali
    Mar 22, 2011 - 1:27PM

    I know people who have worked at the management level at KANNUP and say that it should have been shut down long time ago but it’s still running on life support!!
    It’s not worth anything to keep the plants at Karachi running.
    A point that the author missed in this article is that the plants at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex produced electricity at around 4.7 GWe, making Fukushima I one of the 15 largest nuclear power stations in the world. The KANNUP plant currently only produces around 70 MW or so even at a good efficiency. The reasoning & risk analysis behind closing down KANNUP should be clear, it’s not because we are not prepared or we haven’t thought of a earth quake etc but it’s because of the following two main points:

    1) The plant has been used more then its life span and should have been shut down years ago. Any adversity (natural disaster or human error) might be catastrophic and the risk involved is not worth the returns.
    2) The plant is located very close to the most densely populated cities of the world. It would be impossible to evacuate and rehabilitate the population in case of an adversity.

    These risks are real and we should not take them lightly. I hope that someone in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is listening and thinking about these risks. Recommend

  • Uza Syed
    Mar 22, 2011 - 1:54PM

    Professor Hoodbhoy, thank you for this sincere, informed but futile effort to educate the ones who thrive in not knowing. Your article is timely, warning is appropriate; we could benefit if we were smart which we are not and no one can blame us for our congenital deficiencies ——– so, forgive us ——— we are ignoant! Recommend

  • Raj
    Mar 22, 2011 - 2:05PM

    The answer to india, pakistan, bangla desh and sri lanka’s ebnergy needs lie in form of solar power clean cheap and in abudance, after initial set up costs!!!
    Nuclear energy is not a solution, and to top it we have too many idiots who will be tempted to damage this in name of their agendas….. sadly only ordinary people will suffer.Recommend

  • anonymous
    Mar 22, 2011 - 2:52PM

    Mr. Pervez Pakistan is also not sitting on active volcanoes. It is ironic that a nation which was the target of nuclear weapons is encumbered by fears and uses nuclear energy. However fear mongers like Mr. Pervez deosnt let of go any opportunity to willfy Pakistan and it nuclear program. Recommend

  • Kamran
    Mar 22, 2011 - 3:20PM

    I have mostly had difference of opinion with your views on various issues. However, after reading through this article, I totally agree with you. I think our ill-equipped bureaucrats and experts do not have any idea of what they are keeping with themselves. But honestly speaking they have nothing to lose as the moment any such catastrophe happens, God forbid, they will be the first one out of the country. I wish and pray that our concerned officials read through this and pay some heed to your advises.
    Thank you for sharing the information. Recommend

  • Mar 22, 2011 - 3:23PM

    First of All PAKISTAN AND INDIA are two nations who are just two bad boyz wana bes with small egos ….

    NUCLEAR POWER is not bad the way its implented and its enhancement is always required.

    No matter how you generate electricity there will be always change in the enviromental , either big or small.

    Believing that prevention is better than cure and stop all the technology in Pakistan is like telling Pakistan not to breath.

    You have two choices in this world.

    A. Use Technology to enhance resources with the major increase in popullation .

    or
    B. Keep definite control on popullation for your limited resources.Recommend

  • faraz
    Mar 22, 2011 - 3:34PM

    Atomic weapons is part of the Pakistan ideology, dont say anything about that. We can live without water and food, but not the Pakistan ideologyRecommend

  • Arachnid
    Mar 22, 2011 - 3:37PM

    @anonymous: Are you serious? There’s a fault-line running bang through the center of Pakistan!Recommend

  • Raj
    Mar 22, 2011 - 4:00PM

    @faraz:
    And so shall you! as promised by ZAB, that people will eat grass too!!
    How sad a ideology that people like you follow, bet you don’t have to worry about your where your next meal comes from!!!
    Perhaps you have already invented new recipes too, like radiation kebabs with grass roti and murky water chutneys spiced chemicals!!!!!Recommend

  • John
    Mar 22, 2011 - 4:10PM

    @Kazmis:

    I am sure all nuclear power plants operate with safety procedures in place and engineers are dedicated, US , PAK, India, china, or Japan.

    If India reviews it and say they have good procedures then I guess they have. And if PAK engineers are satisfied with the safety, then it is safe.

    Yet accidents happen, often by human errors.

    The key to nuclear power plant safety is transparent independent body, that has the authority to shut the plant down if the team of engineers find that the safety procedures are compromised. From practice drill to simple faulty meters.

    Citizens should be active to make sure that the inspecting body is transparent and independent, everywhere. That is the key.

    IRecommend

  • Pujari
    Mar 22, 2011 - 4:27PM

    @Raj:
    Instead of Giving Popular Bhashans on these forums, Why not Lead by Example? Go ahead and scrap your Nuclear program first and show the world that you are sincere in avoiding Nuclear/Weapon energy and its consequences. The ground reality is 180 degrees opposite to your Bhashan here,. Recent US and French civilian Nuclear technology pacts put words back in your mouth. Therefore, What ZAB said or not said is none of your Business. You can not critisize nations for what you do not do yourself. Even a 5th grader knows that. If radiation kabobs will be made , you will be part of it too. Do you have safe place to run away? Naw!!!!!! Recommend

  • Bilal Khan
    Mar 22, 2011 - 4:29PM

    Amazingly how many of my indian fellows are taking interest in this … If we compare Pakistan with India in this topic we are an ant in front of an elephant but still they want to talk about us … Why not care about Indian problems first ? or thats bcoz you are hypocrites ?

    @ Mr Hoodbhoy

    I used to watch your programs in 90′s on PTV and always liked you for having so much knowledge … may be I am being naive now but if you really care about implications of having this technology why not write about those countries who have the most of it first ? Or if you really really care about Pakistan (I am begging to doubt it now) why not instead write about education system and do something about it. As all our ills are due to illiteracy only.Recommend

  • faraz
    Mar 22, 2011 - 5:16PM

    @Raj

    Actually, I exactly meant what you are saying; our bombs wont satisfy hungry stomachs. Recommend

  • jibran hayat
    Mar 22, 2011 - 5:24PM

    @unzair javeed!!

    Islam put enormous importance to be rational and intellectual!! with logical reasoning and rationale
    what does destiny means if you go on making a nuclear reactor without precautions !!
    he is right if a country like janpan cant hold to such situation then , its better to down size our nuclear generation plant! for you its easy to say , but the sufferings of poor and middle class family will be huge,

    in the karachi , use a bit of your intellect , dnt put destiny a reason for catastrophe of japan
    , japan was warned for its precautionary measures by IAEA in 2006!!
    but was not considered by japan Recommend

  • Atif
    Mar 22, 2011 - 5:36PM

    For all our indian brothers who visit pakistani news sites and cheerfully criticise Pakistan and sundry, Yes we are in problems from the very begining and its all our own fault, We are really jealous of our neighbours living in paradise where milk canals flow in many of its cities, where all citizen love the country where religious majority loves the minority, where politicians are heroes and never bribe, where science and technology flourish, a country which is next to heaven, we are really jealous of you indians. But no nuclear tragedy has happened to us so far, let us learn from the happenings around the world but you guys should more seriously think of the nuclear disaster as the people living near BHOPAL in India are still protesting even after 37 years of the incident.
    let’s spread love if you want peace Recommend

  • ashok sai
    Mar 22, 2011 - 6:03PM

    @Pujari:

    Can you tell me which country has the no first use policy on nuclear weapons, India or Pakistan ?Recommend

  • Muhammad Saleem Usmani
    Mar 22, 2011 - 8:02PM

    Dr. Hoodbhoy has done it again. He successfully brought the Japanese tragedy over to Pakistan, ruined the people of Karachi and now thinking what went wrong or why was tsunami misplaced? This mindset has brought so many problems to us. Nuclear power is not 100% even in France which has the largest share of Nuclear in its grid. So what is the point? We cannot put our generations on risk by investing in fossil fuel, which is going to get more and more expensive in the years to come. Renewable can only help decentralize a fraction but what about the industries. We need to invest in safe nuclear energy now than later.

    Besides, what the professor forgot that these plants are based on 40-50 years design of GE plants. Nuclear is the only cheap, environmentally safe and viable options for third world. This is the reason that even oil rich nations like UAE and Saudi and building nuclear plants.

    Please use your position and knowledge to help this nation, rather than always painting doomsday scenarios. We have had enough of this scare. Let’s move forward.

    For once think for Pakistan and not for someone else’s interest. Will you?Recommend

  • Ajay
    Mar 22, 2011 - 9:42PM

    @anonymous:

    Like an intelligent person yu still need to ask tough questions? Such as in the event of a catostrophe whether Pakistani scientists will run towards the reactor or away from it. Given the mental makeup as demonstrated ample times, they are likelyto be running away. And Pakistan did have earthquakes and floods. Listen friend..when God is not pleased, anythiung can break anytime. In Pakistan’s case, one can state with almost certainity that God is very very angry with you guys!!!!Recommend

  • Ajay
    Mar 22, 2011 - 9:48PM

    @faraz:

    most appropriately said. Can live without food but not without ideology. And ideology isn’t just Islam, it is also all the nuclear stuff with the word ‘nuclear’. Since Pakistan is a world nuclear power, its scientists should setup a global nuclear advisory institute and advse the nations of the world on safe nulcear engineering techniques and how to plan for disasters. Pakistan should play its rightful role on the world stage.Recommend

  • Ajay
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:09PM

    @Zazi:

    You rradiation will kill us Indians too ! Have some thought about others. Take care of your old plants and listen to the wise man- Hoodboy. I love his name.Recommend

  • sharma
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:11PM

    Neither pakistan,india or any country in the world can handle such kind of crisis!!

    Japan is the most advanced country in all techonologies including fission and fusion reactors in civil nuclear industry!!

    WE just need to ensure safe practices,avoid reactors to be very very close to sea,make some kind of big protection around reactors to avoid tsunami flow to them.

    We should also not create reactors in high seismic zone !!

    I would say that pakistan is safe in this regard,they are guarded by india and gulf states and are mainly landlocked country!!

    Arabian sea is free of tsunami!!

    so danger is more in india where we have a big arabian ocean where we have one of the largest coastal lines in the world exposed by mighy indian ocean home to the indian-eurasian plate .

    Andaman nikobar and southerns states have been affected badly in tsunami in 2004.

    so all advise to our native indians is to stop blaming pakistan :)

    we are worst and since we will have second largest number of reactors being devloped in asia after china ,we must first clean our shoes before looking at others!!Recommend

  • Raja Arsalan Khan
    Mar 22, 2011 - 10:36PM

    @Uzair Javai and Muhammad Saleem Usmani

    I am not concerned whether he is well-paid or not by some “anti-Pakistan” force or not. But the question is: Is is wrong in pointing that we are not capable of handling this kind of mess? What benefit a common citizen is getting with this nuclear program? Should I not ask what the sources and how these are used? Do you have the right to blackmail the whole world with the weapons of mass destruction? Why this money is not utilized for improved agricultural production and expanding industrial base? Why quality education and health is not part of our agenda? Why national interests are defined by the two compounds?
    It can also be said about you that you are paid persons who used this opportunity to defend which is obviously wrong.
    Pakistan should not be used as synonym for the establishment. The sooner we understand it the better are the chances of our survival.Recommend

  • Mar 22, 2011 - 11:34PM

    valueable info. thanks for sharing.Recommend

  • rashid
    Mar 22, 2011 - 11:51PM

    @ muhammad saleem usmani
    why is this mindset of conspiracy theories and delusion of prosecution so rampant in the psyche of pakistani people. professor sab brought up a very timely and a very genuine issue and we as always are putting our mind and energy on side-tracking the issue and search for non-existant conspiracies.Does not this article call for pre-planning to avoid such sorts of catestrophies, pre-empt them before they hit us and get some lesson from the Japanese tragedy? if nuclear energy is not giving us power and we have other un-used natural resources at our disposal, why not use them? why are we criticizing a well known thinker and intellectual who instead of repeating the “sub acha hai” phrase is bold enough to identify our weaknesses and always tries to give some food for our thought? Recommend

  • Bangash
    Mar 23, 2011 - 12:26AM

    These are entirely civilian facilities so Pakistan should cooperate fully with IAEA and international community to get best practices and technology.Recommend

  • Mar 23, 2011 - 2:26AM

    It really great that someone wrote an article about this. While watching the news about the Japan earthquake, I actually found myself thinking of the same thing happening in Karachi (where I live). It would be total and utter chaos!! Recommend

  • Cautious
    Mar 23, 2011 - 2:56AM

    Classic case where national pride will overrule common sense, safety, and economics. Pakistan has no business running a nuclear facility and you can look high and low and never find a nuclear expert outside your country that would say otherwise.Recommend

  • Kamran
    Mar 23, 2011 - 5:59AM

    Thanks for the great article.Recommend

  • Cherish Raj
    Mar 23, 2011 - 9:33AM

    @Atif

    Bhopal! Nuclear accident! At least carry out a google search before printing paragraphs of nonsense. Industrial accidents happens in countries with industries. You do not have to worry about that. Your corroded nuclear dumps put us at risk too.Recommend

  • ZK
    Mar 23, 2011 - 9:45AM

    We need to understand following dispassionatley insteasd of fact, fiction and propaganda mix that Hoodbhoy has given. See this alternative perspective http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/20/question-of-n-safety.html
    In Japan, the nuclear power plants survived the unprecedented earthquake. Fukushima’s standby external power generation capacity was affected by tsunami. Hoodbhoy has cherry-picked on the facts.
    Pakistan’s coast has no historical evidence of tsunami. Only one incident of large 12 feet high wave was recorded in 1945 probably. KANUPP is located on a rock which is about 40 feet above mean sea level. God forbid if a tsunami hits Karachi, KANUPP’s diesel generators will be perched high above the tsunami wave.
    This brings the question of earthquake affecting the nuclear power plants of Pakistan. The reactors world wide – including Pakistan – are designed to withstand a mignitude 10 earthquake and Japan’s earthquake was 9.
    No fallout from Fukushima has affected any medium or large city in Japan. Only small towns within 20 km were evacuated. IAEA considers Fukushima a hazard level 4 accident on a scale of 1 to 7. Chernobyl was 7 and America’s Three Mile Island was 6–both were man made disasters.
    He made a unrealistic comparison of nuclear bomb with a nuclear reactor. Unlike a bomb, in a nuclear reactor most of the fission products are retained in the plant.
    The points raised about safety and physical security of plants are understandable. One should also look at Pakistan’s four decades of excellent record in safety and security.
    PAEC has a strong safety culture which has been verified by international experts from IAEA and WANO. It is second to none and is of world standards. Pakistan’s Nuclear Regualtory Authority’s safety and security plan is used as a role model at the IAEA. PAEC and PNRA will not run away from Pakistan but dual nationality holder-so-called-scientists defintely will.
    @ John. You are absolutely right on fusion reactor’s pipe dream. India did not issue an evaluation report.
    @ Kazmis. India has a poor nuclear safety record. Kaiga Atomic plant’s accident is the latest example. See BBC’s documentary on how India is using its population like chicken feed in the nuclear program and exposing them to the dangers. India has the poorest proliferation record. It carried out first 1974 test by stealing fissile material from Atoms for Peace program reactors. The Nuclear Suppliers Group was created in 1975 as a consequence.Recommend

  • SSPanzer
    Mar 23, 2011 - 10:37AM

    Pakistan’s nuclear program owes its existence to PAEC and its scientists and engineers. They have given Pakistan an indigenous nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapon capability. Nuclear power costs money and a vast industrial base which Pakistan lacks. Even India, with a much larger industrial base, took 10 years to complete the partially completed Rajasthan-II reactor, after Canada cut off assistance in the wake of the 1974 PNE, even though the Canadians had given India all the necessary drawings and transfer of technology. As of now, both China and India are investing in western nuclear power technology. If nuclear power generation is a fraction of Pakistan’s total power output, it is because from 1972 onwards, Pakistan has had a nuclear weapons program as the first priority for national defence. It is not PAEC’s fault if successive governments have been unable to allocate the necessary billions needed to set up or import nuclear power plants, and no one else except China has been, or still is willing to sell these to Pakistan. PAEC along with the IAEA prepared a long-term nuclear power plan in 1973 which called for setting up 24 nuclear power reactors by the turn of the century.

    No government in Pakistan could, after India’s 1974 test, shift funds from the weapons program to the nuclear power program. PAEC, has, since 1975 given Pakistan complete mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium exploration, processing, conversion, (enrichment project manned by PAEC manpower), fuel fabrication, reprocessing, and the missile program. The Khushab reactors are all PAEC’s work, in addition to over 20 other labs and projects in the weapons program. Not to forget that Pakistan’s cotton and wheat crops, the backbone of the economy have been the result of the seeds produced by the nuclear agriculture centres of PAEC, which have added billions in export earnings. What else can one organization do for a country under a constant paucity of funds? Recommend

  • Uzair Javaid
    Mar 23, 2011 - 11:15AM

    @jibran hayat: than why down size the figure where fear remains. Why not completely abandon it??? this is what hoodbhoy wants you to think and eventually say so. Even if you downsize your nuclear installations, you still would have a fear of a catastrophe. So my point is that you cant STAND nature! its just too powerful to take countless precautionary measures. Japan is well equipped and way to rich to spend on safety and security, but would they be able to stop winds that is feared to spread radiation. So in short this scare game is just paid by the west. We need energy from it or not, its mere existence is enough to keep many significant dangers away from PAKISTANRecommend

  • moise
    Mar 23, 2011 - 12:09PM

    Fukushima Smoking Gun Emerges: Founding Engineer Says Reactor 4 Has Always Been A “Time Bomb”, Exposes Criminal Cover UpRecommend

  • ROOKIE
    Mar 23, 2011 - 2:11PM

    You are right Mr Pervez; we cant handle Fukushima because it is in Japan. The viciousness of this article can be judged by the fact that Pakistan is amongst the nations with least nuclear reactors (only 4) as compared to India, China and USA. But Mr. Hoodhbhoy keep whip lashing and creating doomsday scenario only to prove himself last enlightented mind in the country. Stop trying to win a noble peace prize by willify Pakistan’s nuclear program. Instead try wining one in Physics.Recommend

  • tarek
    Mar 24, 2011 - 11:23AM

    @ajay
    India has a poverty rate of 43% compared to Pakistan’s 17% which is proof that Allah is very pleased with us.

    Why are you so worried about Pakistan???Recommend

  • Saud
    Mar 24, 2011 - 11:42AM

    Mr. Hoodbhoy
    Something like the following would have been a more constructive contribution from u to your country. Anybody can paint a doomsday scenario.

    Building a Better Reactor
    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/1114/b4222070137297page_5.htm

    In the above you will see that China is at the forefront of building the next generation of safer reactors. That is where our new plants are coming from.Recommend

  • ali
    Mar 24, 2011 - 12:33PM

    houdbouy is right in his point about KANUP,
    its old, its rusty,,it has completed its life a few years ago, so it makes sence that it could become a problem. the scientists wont agree to his argument because that might cut their fortunes. he didnt mentioned CHashma, because he believes that they are safe,
    i think a 1972 model reactor is vulnerable. it should be diverted to research activities only as the nilore par 1 is doing so. prevention is better than cure… Recommend

  • Atif
    Mar 25, 2011 - 3:53AM

    Doctor, aap daktar hi hain :)Recommend

  • sameer ali
    Mar 25, 2011 - 7:02PM

    Ever since Pakistan entered into the nuclear field, it has faced criticism from around the world. Pakistan was blamed of stealing, disturbing the world stability, proliferation, inadequate safety and security measures. Pakistan might be a late entrant into the nuclear club but Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program dates back to 1965 when Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor-1 went critical which is a research reactor provided by the US. Thereafter, power reactors were built and a number of military nuclear installations were made too.
    Pakistan has an excellent safety and security record since 1965, as there have been no accidents or mishandlings being reported. Comparatively there have been several accidents in much developed countries like US, Russia, UK, Germany, Canada, Argentina to name a few
    The argument that even if an accident happened, Pakistan will cover it up is not defendable as the nuclear accidents carry unmistakable signatures and cannot be hidden. The author has, by implication of his arguments, called the Pakistani nation an uncivilized one. He has included everyone from the well-educated scientists, to a common man and illiterate ones in one package of insult. The Pakistani scientific community is learned, organized and systemized community. They are our unsung heroes and heroines and an attempt to insult them is unpardonable. Our scientific community knows very well how to perform their duties. If they could give us the nuclear power against all odds, we consider that they are capable of ensuring its safety too. I do not advocate that KANUPP or any other nuclear reactor is invulnerable to any natural disaster or that they will withstand any uncertain condition but there is no comparison between the capacity of the plants at FUKUSHIMA and KANUPP, and the author himself alluded to it and his fear mongering is politically motivated. Whatever may happen, let us just not humiliate a set of people who have proved their worth so many times, when Pakistan was deprived of fuel for its civilian program, when we needed to enrich uranium, when we succeeded in reprocessing, when we made our production reactors and so many other achievements of what we know not. Furthermore the author goes on to say that our production reactors are not fueling our n-bombs. I urge the so-called physicist not to create doubts in the minds of our nation at a time when the whole world is otherwise after us. With countrymen like him who needs enemies.Recommend

  • Ikram Ullah Khan
    Mar 25, 2011 - 9:46PM

    I am quite agree with writer that Japanese are more advanced than Pakistan in every field especially in technology. But any country which is running its civil nuclear program with the collaboration and under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s safeguards has the same arrangements to run this program. We should also appreciate Pakistan that it has been emerged as a model state in this respect that it also has internal check system in the form of Pakistan Nuclear Regularity Authority (PNRA). PNRA got the word of appreciation by IAEA respective officials for its good performance. PNRA is an independent body which make sure the safety and security of nuclear installation according internationally recognized IAEA’s SOPs. As IAEA acknowledged its useful status and recommended that others should also follow the Pakistani model in the field of nuclear an should establish institutions like PNRA.
    Secondly, PNRA with the collaboration of Health Department , Rescue 1122 and with NDMA arranges such exercises and practice sessions to handle any nuclear disaster.
    I know that there are few people those have immense fear and don’t want to use nuclear energy even for peaceful uses they consider it an apocalyptic choice even for civil use. But remember there are lot of things those have potentially dangerous effects even “electricity” which we are using in every field. Any time it can cause death while any person interacting with it. In past there had been reported a number of cases in this respect but now in scanty due to preventive measures. Similarly there are good preventive measures and management procedure to deal with any sort of nuclear incident even in Pakistan. IAEA with the help of international community , UN and with the coordination of victim state can act within no time. As in the case of The Fukoshima incident which has been handled well. We should have to support Pakistan for the sake of its prosperity and progress as nuclear energy is a good alternative energy to overcome the Pakistan;s energy crisis. Pakistan industry would cools apse if the situation remained same as we can called it worse due to electricity load shading. We have a good chance to establish few civil nuclear power plants with the cooperation of China as no other country is ready to provide us any sort of nuclear cooperation.We should not miss this opportunity. As we still not hearing any voice from Japanese nation or any protest by this nation to bane this civil nuclear program inside Japan because they know it would be a good tool to rebuild Japan. Recommend

  • Mar 26, 2011 - 7:06PM

    I believe what the author of this article and the world should be highly concerned with first is Israel, nuclear safegaurds…As its the only undeclared nuclear power in the world whose installations have yet to be inspected by the UN IAEC inspection team and has not signed any treaty’s…I wonder,how come the US and the EU countries have failed to notice that ?Recommend

  • Mar 26, 2011 - 7:10PM

    The tragedy which struck Japan, through natures way is unprecedented and incomparable…Firstly, lets pray that such a wrath of nature does not befalls on any nation…But if it does, then I really doubt that even the best of preparedness and even the latest of the designs would be able to stop this type of a meltdown by any nation howsoever powerful it maybe !….9.5 Richter scale earthquake and Tsunami with waves more the 6 -meters high…Hoepfully will not happens often,I pray! Pakistan’s ,nuclear reactors maybe of an older design, yet it until now enjoys a clean record and it withstood the test of, though not the same intensity and magnitude as Japan was struck with, but by an earthquake measuring in the magnitude of 7.6, in the year 2005,causing extensive damage to life and property in it’s epicenters surrounding areas. Killing 7500 people by some estimates… It was also not damaged in last year’s devastating floods….

    The point is that both the plant are located on plains near the banks of the Indus River, hundreds of miles to the south of Kashmir; the site of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 2005…and both of these areas remained safe during the floods and earthquake”….that is called being farsighted good planning… the reason they were safe was due to their safe strategic location away from harms way of natural calamity…

    I am sure similar every nuclear state Pakistan must had learnt a lot from what happened in Japan and would be in the process of learning from Japans mistakes and faults and revisiting their sites to initiate preparedness and efforts for their safeguard…Recommend

  • Sajjad Mirza
    Mar 29, 2011 - 10:26AM

    Dr Hoodbhoy’s intellect is not challengeable, but what I conclude from his article is that we should not only shut down KANNUP because it can burst in earthquake or tsunami, rather we should stop living in Karachi becasue Tsunami can hit Karachi and moreover we should stop living on earth because earthquake can come on earth. I think we need to discover some new horizons in reactor technology to keep the reactor cool even in worst situations. Recommend

  • Ali Haider
    Apr 15, 2011 - 12:37AM

    I smell anger. Did they ever refused you entry to the power plant. You seemed to have lost objectivity while writing this article, unbecoming for a person like you.Recommend

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