Nuclear plans: Even a small earthquake can damage plants

Published: January 9, 2014
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Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy speaking at the seminar in Karachi. PHOTO: SHUJAUDDIN QURESHI

Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy speaking at the seminar in Karachi. PHOTO: SHUJAUDDIN QURESHI

Nuclear physicists,
civil society members
debate merits of setting
up nuclear plants near
Karachi. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID
Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy speaking at the seminar in Karachi. PHOTO: SHUJAUDDIN QURESHI
KARACHI: 

Nuclear physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy feared that if the two nuclear plants are set up near Karachi, even a small earthquake or a terrorist activity can damage the reactors. 

“I am worried that an operator’s error or act of terrorism can cause destruction to the nuclear reactors of these power plants,” he said. “In case of any accident, the deaths in Karachi may not be in hundreds but in hundreds of thousands.”

Dr Hoodbhoy, nuclear physicist Dr AH Nayyar and civil society activists had gathered on Wednesday to discuss the merits of setting up two large nuclear power plants, K-II and K-III, along Karachi coastline. The seminar, titled ‘Impacts of Nuclear Power Projects K-II and K-III along the Coastal Areas’, was organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), ActionAid Pakistan and Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) at Regent Plaza on Wednesday.

The speakers demanded the government re-conduct all the studies necessary to install the plants and take the public into confidence.

In his speech, Dr Hoodbhoy recalled that a human error at the Chernobyl power plant in the 1980s caused between 8,000 and 24,000 deaths – several more died from cancer. “The effects of the radiation emission from Fukushima reactors are still being felt after three years,” he pointed out, adding that countries, such as Germany, Japan and Switzerland are now shifting to alternative energy options.

He regretted that developed countries are closing down nuclear power reactors, and China cannot find a buyer except Pakistan in the whole world. China is providing $6.5 billion as loan to Pakistan to purchase the nuclear reactors, he added. “We need to eye our Thar coal power and keep the option of small dams open.”

In his presentation, Dr AH Nayyar said that the current total installed capacity of nuclear power plants is 725megawatt including KANUPP and Chashma plants and all the plants cover three per cent of the total energy production of Pakistan. By 2030, Pakistan intends to install 8,800MW. For K-II and K-III, only the SITE Evaluation Report has been prepared and the Reactor Safety Report and Environmental Impact Analysis has yet to be made. He also feared that in case of a nuclear accident, it will be difficult to evacuate the entire population of Karachi, as there is no effective disaster management system.

“The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission needs to assert its importance by establishing more nuclear power plants and claim its share on national resources,” he said, adding that the commission has a budget of Rs56 billion this year.

On defence

K-II and K-III project director Azfar Minhaj defended the project by saying it has been approved by the elected governments and all the stakeholders necessary. “The project has not come from the sky in a day but has taken six years in which studies and surveys were conducted,” he said.

Minhaj told The Express Tribune that they are building the plant 12 metres above the sea level, which is safe as the estimated height of tsunami waves in a worst-case scenario will be 2.8 metres. If the safety system of the plant fails, only the population within a 16-kilometre radius will need to be evacuated. “That area ends before Gulbai and has a population of not more than 100,000,” he explained.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Aysha M
    Jan 9, 2014 - 1:13AM

    Hoodbhoy Karachi’s knight in the shining armour

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  • Shakil Ahmed
    Jan 9, 2014 - 5:20AM

    Dr Hoodbhoy opinions on his field as physicist and politics always has one thing in common, its always against Pakistan interests and directly serves interests of enemies of Pakistan.
    Is it just a co incidence?

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  • Shakila
    Jan 9, 2014 - 5:57AM

    Okay, then build them a few miles away from karachi..whats the fuss about?

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  • THE
    Jan 9, 2014 - 6:02AM

    In his presentation, Dr AH Nayyar said that the current total installed capacity of nuclear power plants is 725 megawatt including KANUPP and Chashma plants and all the plants cover three per cent of the total energy production of Pakistan
    This is factually wrong and has nothing to do with the future nuclear projects.
    Also, I don’t trust Dr. Hoodbhoy since we have had the KANUPP-1 plant since 1972 at the same location but this is an excellent debate to have for safety concerns. The point is not that we should avoid these nuclear projects but the point of debate should be on improving safety for them.
    Why haven’t we been able to take advantage of the Thar coal in the last decade? or can we meet our energy demand by only constructing “small dams”?
    We have to look at the argument very carefully before jumping to any conclusions.

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  • goodbye
    Jan 9, 2014 - 6:20AM

    Their seems he has no work to do except propagating anti state agenda.

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  • Khan
    Jan 9, 2014 - 9:37AM

    he is correct also if you read between the lines he means that if Karachi is attacked from sea it would be easy to destroy Karachi, this was also the reason why they changed the capital of Pakistan from Karachi to Isl

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  • yasir
    Jan 9, 2014 - 10:27AM

    According to the UN Report, About 1.3 billion people in the world are living without electricity; two-thirds of them being in 10 countries and four of them, including Pakistan, in the Asia Pacific region. But still we oppose government’s initiatives to curb energy crisis. Energy is now the talk of town in Pakistan. Karachi the biggest city experiencing up to 12 hours load shedding. Yet we are pointing fingers towards nuclear installations in Karachi without having proper knowledge.

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  • Sindhi
    Jan 9, 2014 - 10:35AM

    No to ‘nuclear’ energy, yes to a ‘new clear’ vision.

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  • Qasim
    Jan 9, 2014 - 11:14AM

    Today I red in Indian news paper tahat

    “”Nuclear energy is a dependable and clean option to produce power. India is among the very few nations which have developed technology to install nuclear power plants and have achieved the capability to make nuclear fuel. Our aim is that in the coming ten years, we should achieve the capability to generate more than 27,000 MW nuclear power,” Singh said in Haryana’s Jhajjar district.””

    What is going on with India, Why they are building nuclear plants that much.

    Other thing is that although Germany decide to end its nuclear plants by 2020, However now they change there plan and decide to go with nuclear plant as it is only workable source for them. They have no other option. Now germany are building latest generation of nuclear plants. My Hoodbhouy should read about German decision to abandon the nuclear latest decision

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  • Dr Hammad
    Jan 9, 2014 - 11:25AM

    @THE:
    I am 100% agree with. We should not abandon the nuclear plant idea. Rather we should have dialogue How to improve more safety measures. It will be more constructive thing. Rather to say finish it.

    To say just finish nuclear idea rather to argue how to improve our nuclear is very uneducated debate.
    Developed nations not do in that way. Although Germany decide to finish nuclear plants but now they decide to keep rely on nuclear by enhancing the more safety measures. W should about the educated way rather this uneducated idea to give up at ones.

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  • We are Karachi
    Jan 9, 2014 - 12:02PM

    We people of Karachi love to technology and will appreciate any such project. I hope Govt will bring this into reality not like other projects that could not be materialize

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  • Random Passerby
    Jan 9, 2014 - 12:18PM

    if Karachi is attacked from sea it would be easy to destroy Karachi, this was also the reason why they changed the capital of Pakistan from Karachi to Isl

    @Khan: We are not living in the 19th century. Any city can be destroyed in a matter of minutes, and the attack can come from sea or over land.

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  • Sandh Maa
    Jan 9, 2014 - 12:18PM

    Education will give us solution to problems. To just give up is not solution to any problem. the best way to solve the nuclear safety issue is to go with the project and start nuclear safety engineering institution in universities. Engineers will work on it and they will find solutions to safety problems. Rather to just give up is very stupid idea to solve any problem. It is not solving problems it is just we dont want to do any education in nuclear engineering while give up projects.

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  • NOSH
    Jan 9, 2014 - 12:51PM

    Little and Simple question! Has the world stop in going towards nuclear energy after Fukushima and Chernobyl???? The answer is NO. Similarly, after the very first nuclear explosions on Japanese cities, world speedily moves towards the nuclear weapons rather than quitting or slowing down. Pakistan is going for nuclear power plants primarily to meet the excessive energy needs. Today, Pakistan has been acknowledged as “Most Improved nation on nuclear security.” This label has dissolved all the objections against Pakistan nuclear weapons programs. The same case can also be applied to civilian nuclear energy case. These plants would also be appreciable as they would overcome the energy crisis.

    http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2014/01/pakistan-named-most-improved-nuclear-security/76484/?oref=d-river?oref=d-interstitial-continue

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  • Adeel Laguhari
    Jan 9, 2014 - 1:01PM

    @Sindhi:
    I am Sindhi and I am educated Sindhi I will say very loud yes to nuclear energy. Dear u have no idea it is the most clean source of energy until human discover in modern world, Tell me single solution which create such zero impact on environment

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  • Wali Khan
    Jan 9, 2014 - 2:17PM

    To just give up nuclear plants project is very uneducated solution they are giving for for safety problem. There is not single country to have shout down nuclear plant just safety. Every one went for solution with keeping projects.

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  • Sobriquet
    Jan 9, 2014 - 3:04PM

    @Qasim:
    Germany is NOT building any new nuclear plants, so don’t spread false information. Germany’s policy is to get out of nuclear energy as it is not only dangerous, but there is not solution for storing nuclear waste, which needs to be done safely for tens of thousands of years!

    Recommend

  • Sobriquet
    Jan 9, 2014 - 3:06PM

    @Adeel Laguhari:
    Do you even know what is the risk, impact and cost of storing nuclear waste, which needs to be done safely for tens of thousands of years

    Recommend

  • Adeel Laguhari
    Jan 9, 2014 - 3:55PM

    @Sobriquet: Yes I know very well and that I can explain if u dont know, That waste not occupied hectors of hectors , That waste one can buried by digging quite much down with solid grounding as USA, and europe are doing. On the other hand if u move to coal , How much CO2 u will produce u have no idea how much damage that caused. And big dams are ecological as dangerous as coal burning in air. Recommend

  • Qasim
    Jan 9, 2014 - 4:01PM

    @Sobriquet:
    Man can you explain me when Germany is going to quite nuclear plants????.although They decide they will give up nuclear power by 20202 but after years study they decide to go with nuclear energy as it the only best way to get power. All Germany safely dumping there nuclear waste from last 50 years and they are keep improving the dumping method. Listen man give up is not solution in any way. Dumping of waste is solvable in nuclear sector, As japan and many countries are doing from last 100 year. I dont want to go here in technical details that u have to study ur self u will find dumping waste solution. Recommend

  • Qasim
    Jan 9, 2014 - 4:17PM

    @Sobriquet: new renewables sources in Germany, create an extra 300 million tonnes of CO2 to 2020 from increased fossil fuel use. That will virtually cancel out the 335 Mt savings intended to be achieved in the entire European Union by the 2011 Energy Efficiency Directive from the European Commission. The Bundesnetzagentur in September 2012 said that 25 new power plants with total 12 GWe were under construction, 67% powered by black coal and 17% by brown coal – 10.1 GWe coal – adding to 55 GWe already operating and most of it not likely to be shut down before 2020. While gas plants fit better as back-up for expanded renewables, they are less economic and gas supplies are uncertain.
    Germany’s CO2 emissions from industry and power stations in 2012 were 450 million tonnes, the same as 2011, according to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). A higher rate of coal-fired power generation was offset by lower industrial CO2 emissions due to an economic slowdown in the euro zone… And ur question about waste is,, It is now considered a possible site for geological disposal of high-level wastes. These will be about 5% of total wastes with 99% of the radioactivity. A pilot conditioning plant is there. The site could be available as a final repository from 2025, with a decision to be made about 2019. Some EUR 1.5 billion was spent over 1979 to 2000 researching the site, and the investment in it from the power utilities now stands at about EUR 1.6 billion. Work stopped in 2002 due to political edict, but in October 2010 the BfS on behalf of the federal government applied to resume studies and extend the operating licence to 2020. Lower Saxony allowed this, and in 2013 it agreed that Gorleben should not be ruled out in further considerations proposed then.Recommend

  • Javeed
    Jan 9, 2014 - 4:23PM

    MS Sandra, a chemical assistant at Krümmel in germany, said: “Nuclear is dangerous, but there are dangers in everything and Germany is known for having the strictest controls. Germany is stupid to close these plants after investing so much money. All the countries around us aren’t closing their plants and the UK and Turkey are building new onesRecommend

  • Naila
    Jan 9, 2014 - 4:41PM

    @Sobriquet:
    To not building nuclear plant is not good solution at all. Come up with some good solution?? U must know Inida are building nuclear plants and India and China are our neighbor countries.
    Can you tell me if any misshape happen in china and India than there is any technology for something happens to stop in pak and the fallout and the horror will not stop at the border of India Pakistan and China Pakistan.If we have plants by that blessing we will invest money in learning nuclear fall out problems in case of any misshape in india we can handle the situation as we are playing with nuclear plants in our country..

    Recommend

  • khalid
    Jan 9, 2014 - 4:48PM

    One can read what UK are doing with nuclear energy source. Up to 50 nuclear power stations could be built under plans being looked at by the UK government. The remarkable figure – 10 times the number the government is openly discussing – is revealed in documents submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change by one of its own advisory bodies in UK.

    Recommend

  • Saleem Hatoum
    Jan 9, 2014 - 5:51PM

    This Hoodbhoy is like AQK, lies and lies left and right.

    He claims to be the student of the great Dr. Salam but you can’t find any shred of evidence to support his false claim.
    He is a American citizen and loves to criticism Pakistan for anything which is label as progress.

    Recommend

  • Saba
    Jan 9, 2014 - 7:03PM

    Nuclear energy having its promising characteristics for Pakistan and the associated challenges and opportunities need to be analysed in a professional manner, not in Hood Bhai’s manners. And our PAEC nuclear experts are well aware of that professional manner.

    Recommend

  • Naima
    Jan 9, 2014 - 7:04PM

    By asking questions about the design of the reactor ACP1000 that China will supply for Karachi, Hoodbhoy not mention that it is a third generation version of pressurized water reactors based on the AP1000 reactor designed by Westinghouse, and is equipped with additional security features to tackle Fukushima-like accident. Hood Bhoy!! Why are you against Pakistan’s prosperity???

    Recommend

  • Salma
    Jan 9, 2014 - 7:05PM

    Hood Bhoy deliberately does not tell his audience that construction at Karachi is to begin after work starts for a reactor of the same model at a Chinese domestic site, Fuqing, in the Fujian province.

    Recommend

  • Nicholas
    Jan 9, 2014 - 8:02PM

    There is no way that any other fuel or power source can compete with uranium or thorium fission on anything close to a level playing field. The fuel is too darned compact, too darned cheap per unit of heat, and too darned clean (clean enough to power sealed submarines for goodness sake.)

    Recommend

  • Jade
    Jan 9, 2014 - 8:05PM

    Nuclear power offers the ability to generate large volumes of baseload power safely and efficiently, while producing no GHG emissions. Meeting our growing demand needs in an environmentally friendly fashion is, to my mind, one of the chief reasons we should encourage the expansion of nuclear power. All other critics are baseless.

    Recommend

  • Abdullah
    Jan 10, 2014 - 9:29AM

    Adding on to above comments. We should not to forget how many white collar job opportunities this will create.

    Recommend

  • Jennifer
    Jan 10, 2014 - 1:18PM

    Construction of nuclear power plants in Karachi will make the people of Pakistan and specifically people of Karachi to help in overcoming the long prevalent crisis of energy shortfall. karachi is the business capital of Pakistan, major trade of the country is dependent upon Karachi industries and companies… Design and structure of the power plants is based on the third generation of the pressurised water reactors and are weel equipped with security mechanisms and is earthquake resistant. Though fukushima and Chernobyl left the memories of people regarding nuclear power scary and dreadful but Dr,Hoodbhoy has misperception regarding the fact that many state shave shut down their power plants, he has mentioned only three countries, while according to recent estimates there are currently 56 countries which are constructing and are already dependent on nuclear power plants for the sake of power generation because of the fact that energy produced by nuclear power plants will be reliable, safe and fruaght with the economic challenges of Pakistan. predictable

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  • Khurram Bashir
    Jan 10, 2014 - 4:09PM

    Baseless, hoodbhoy has gone completely insane. PAEC has many nuclear scientists and engineers; even the Father of the Pakistani bomb Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan has said nothing against the nuclear power project. PAEC has the ability to handle larger nuclear power projects and reactors are earthquake resistant. In 2013 Iran had a magnitude 7.7 earthquake and survived, reactors were automatically tripped down and back up generators avoided any radioactive release. The plant was designed to resist 8 magnitude earthquake, in short PAEC and CNNC are capable of constructing reactors those can bear more than 8 magnitude earthquake.

    Recommend

  • Naila
    Jan 11, 2014 - 3:34AM

    @Khurram Bashir:
    I can explain u bit bit, Mr Hoodbhouy was the good buddy of Prof Salam, Both Discused physics quite time in back life if Prof Salam.

    And Mr hoodbhouy never Lie that I can give this statement about Mr Hoodbhouy with max confident. Mr Hoodbhouy is most intelligent brain in natual sciences in Pakistan

    Recommend

  • Haseeb Ali
    Jan 26, 2014 - 1:23PM

    1.Dont build dams. They are dangerous. They will give all of the Waters to Punjab and will flood other provinces. Wow, what a unique technology the Pakistani dams are.
    2.Don’t build furnace oil power stations. Furnace oil is very expensive.
    3.Dont build Coal power stations. Thar coal is of bad quality. Its a national crime to dig out wealth of pakistan. It should remain buried.
    4.Now, dont build nuclear plants. They are very dangerous and especially extremely dangerous for Pakistani nation drowned in darkness.
    5.Generators and UPS. Oh yes they are future of pakistani. Pakistan should focus on local production of this technology. They are totally safe. We do not rely on others not even to our government. Everybody should buy this sophisticated technology and start producing electricity in his backyard.
    I would like to register myself to attend an upcoming seminar on;
    “GENERATORS AND UPS: FUTURE OF PAKISTAN”.

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