Nuclear power: ‘K-2, K-3 nuclear reactors more safe than Fukushima’

Published: January 24, 2014
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All seismic fault lines near the plants are inactive, says expert. PHOTO: FILE

All seismic fault lines near the plants are inactive, says expert. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Reactors of the Karachi nuclear power project – K-2 and K-3 – are more safe and sophisticated than those of Fukushima, said its project director Azfar Minhaj.

Minhaj and his colleagues from Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), including Scientific Information and Public Relations director Shahid Riaz Khan, were briefing the media at the PAEC Office on Thursday.

 photo AzfarMinhaj_zpsef2f2a48.jpg

They were answering the queries of writers, civil society members and NGOs on the safety of the 2200-megawatt plants, which the government is building along the Karachi coast near the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant.

In his presentation, Minhaj said that they have conducted many studies of the site to ensure that the plants could survive the largest earthquake and tsunami that can be expected in the region. “The highest tsunami height expected in Karachi is about 2.8 metres above sea level, while the K-2 and K-3 ground level is 12 metre above the mean sea level,” he said, adding that they have collected all the instrumental, historical data of earthquakes in the history of Karachi.

They have also examined the ground but there is no history of major earthquakes in Karachi. He said that all seismic fault lines near the plants are inactive. “We have hypothetically assumed a 602-kilometre fault line near the city. If it gets ruptured, it will not affect the plant,” he said.

“Our plant is at 12-metre height and our electricity generation sources are at elevated levels. We have the mobile diesel electric generator ready and the plants have the passive emergency power supply and cooling water systems for 72 hours. In case of water storages, we can use fire water tanks for cooling.”

According to Minhaj, the ‘ACP1000’ system proposed for the K-2 and K-3 plants, which is a third generation reactor with enhanced security measures and capabilities, is safer and more sophisticated than the Fukushima. The ACP1000 is a ‘Pressurised Water Reactor’ and has been used in the nuclear industry for the past five decades. He said that China is constructing 29 nuclear power plants in its country and the plant at Chashma is imported from China and has been working efficiently for the past 14 years.

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China has also provided loans for Chashma plants. For the K-2 and K-3, it is providing $6.5 billion loan on soft terms.

Minhaj refuted the claim that the whole city would have to be evacuated in case of an accident or a complete meltdown of the plants. According to him, in the case of an accident, the population within the five-kilometre radius will be evacuated and they have prepared plans for it.

“We will extend the evacuation plan till 15-kilometre radius which covers the area till Gulbai and population up to 100,000.” He also said that they have sufficient stalk potassium iodide tablets for the population in case of an emergency. “Pakistan Army, provincial and national disasters management authorities and local administration and traffic police are in loop in case of emergency evacuation. We have made our plans according to our own census and survey in the area.” He added that locality near the plant is thinly populated and the PAEC has acquired a land within 1.5 kilometre radius to halt any construction there.

The plants are resistant to terrorist attacks and designed to take a commercial plane crash without letting it to penetrate through. “The plant has double-shell containment. Its outer shell is strong enough to stop attacks like 9/11,” he said, adding that they have strong physical security system more secure than that of the General Headquarters and guarded by 920 officials.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • GS@Y
    Jan 25, 2014 - 12:06AM

    Sounds good to me. Lets do this now!

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  • Yasir
    Jan 25, 2014 - 12:06AM

    Pakistan will get rid of power-cuts soon. Nuclear power is vital for the economic progress of the state. The nuclear power plants are safe and secure. The survey reports of the cites shows that the location is most suitable for the power plants.

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  • Ali S
    Jan 25, 2014 - 1:34AM

    Really? That’s how low their bar is? Fukushima irradiated thousands of people in a country as developed and disciplined as Japan – we shouldn’t even be thinking in the same league

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  • reader
    Jan 25, 2014 - 1:35AM

    It wasn’t the earthquake that damaged Fukushima it was the tsunami. there is no way to stop the kind of force that was created by the Fukushima tsunami. Nuclear plants can be built to be earthquake-resistant, but not tsunami-resistant, the technology for that just does not exist. So it might make sense, to build this plant somewhere, anywhere, away from the ocean…

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  • reader
    Jan 25, 2014 - 1:40AM

    also, yes China is building 29 nuclear plants in their country, but as per policy, all their nuclear plants are imported.. not made in China They made policy few years ago to stop building their own locally manufactured plants in their country and all new nuclear power plant construction will be from foreign companies…

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  • a
    Jan 25, 2014 - 1:45AM

    This is a city which is densely populated and so many people cannot be be evacuated in case of a disaster. You cant say with 100% surity that tsunami waves higher than 12 meters cannot come or an earthquake cannot erupt in the city. It will be huge disaster if anything happens. Think what happened in Chernobyl and Bhopal. There is always a small risk no matter how much you try to make it safe. Why can’t you move it to somewhere away from populated areas or away from city and its suburbs?

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  • Jan 25, 2014 - 2:38AM

    Fukushima radiation reaches Pacific Coast: gov’t does nothing to monitor air, food and water – California residents
    22 January 2014 Voice of Russia

    There are indicators that the radiation is reaching California.
    The Japanese government admitted in July 2013 that more radioactive water has been coursing into the Pacific Ocean than the Japanese government first had reported.

    There are signs of radioactivity in California fish. Starfish, Pacific bluefin tunas, sea lions, whales, dolphins, anchovies, and other marine animals either haves radioactive elements from the Fukushima plant, or diseases caused by radiation.

    It took almost 3 years for the radioactive waters to reach the Pacific Ocean.
    The effects of Fukushima will be increasing as the front edge of a large water plume coming from the Fukushima plant will reach California soon and increase over the years.

    Recommend

  • Akber
    Jan 25, 2014 - 2:55AM

    I have attended Pervez Hoodbhoy lecture on these proposed power plant, he also discussed in detail the nuclear disasters history the Chernobyl and fukishama and about china’s questionable expertise in field of nuclear power plant and its disaster management with insistences of there failures in china,

    he also mentioned that this plant design is untested and would be first of its kind in the world, and these plant so close to the city the idea is quite scary as 9 months a year wind blows from sea towards the city and in case of disaster if wind was blowing towards the city you just might have to evacuate the whole city as impossible as it would be, one also has to keep in mind the people evacuated after fukushima nuclear disaster area haven’t able to go back to there homes even 2 years after the disaster because of radiation in that area, PH was of opinion with size of these plant which is 1100 MW each in case of a disaster the city could be inhabitable for at least 200 years.

    so ill find it okay when PH will be okay with it. If we have to have these plants lets make it a little far away from Karachi so the city population could not be directly effected by it.

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  • Naeem
    Jan 25, 2014 - 7:53AM

    @reader:

    Really? How told you that? ridiculous claim!

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  • bechari-awam
    Jan 25, 2014 - 8:46AM

    someone is too worried about tsunami waves greater 12m destroying the plant causing a big disaster. He forget to tell us how much of Karachi city will survive anyway as a result of those giant waves.

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  • Khurram Awan
    Jan 25, 2014 - 8:52AM

    @Akber: If the people of Sindh have a problem with this huge 2200 Megawatts project then kindly shift this project to Punjab. The royalty and right to use first by 18th Amendment will be welcomed by us. The people of Punjab will welcome this initiative but then smaller provinces must not cry foul at all that Punjab is taking the lion’s share in development. Pakistan have the best track record of Nuclear safety and Nuclear Research reactors. Chasma Reactors in Punjab and Research reactor of Kahuta always operated in the past with no problems whatsoever.

    If developed countries like France can produce 70 percent of their needs with Nuclear power then why Pakistan have a problem with Nuclear technology.

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  • Abdul Hameed
    Jan 25, 2014 - 12:50PM

    An old story goes like this. In the times of sea warfare, a wise man was on such a ship. As soon as an enemy’s cannon ball hit the ship, he would rush and put his head in the hole made by it. Someone asked him about this madness, to which he replied that the probability of hitting the same spot is close to zero. There is a lesson in this episode for the Atomic Energy Commission people. No two nuclear reactor accidents anywhere have been identical. Reactors are complex machines, and accidents can take any one of a large number of possibilities of mishap. It is therefore meaningless to say that a Fukushima like accident cannot happen here.

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  • Zahir Shah
    Jan 25, 2014 - 12:53PM

    @Khurram Awan:

    Its not a Sindh problem and for your information the proximity of Chashma to River Indus is extremely risky to say the least.

    Kannup 2 & 3 were not proposed by this government but the previous ones and people had similar objections back then. We have plenty of secluded areas in Kirthar, Badin etc why not build it there?

    Chashma 3 & 4 should also be build further away from River Indus, but this article is not about Chashma. Local population of Chashma being relatively uneducated (the ones outside the complex) it is duty of rest of Punjab and Pakistan to forces government to change the location.

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  • Random Passerby
    Jan 25, 2014 - 2:25PM

    @reader: The power plants will be built on top of a cliff overlooking the sea. It would take a gigantic tsunami wave to reach the power plant. And if such a gigantic wave does hit Karachi, then God help Karachi, power plant or not.

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  • hassan j riarh
    Jan 25, 2014 - 3:51PM

    the accident at chernobyl was caused by human error. plus what about earth quakes?

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  • adnan
    Jan 25, 2014 - 5:16PM

    Nuclear plants need huge water source for cooling like sea, river, canal etc. So please suggest PAEC any such location in Pakistan that has no population near it. They are definitely planning for more plants, So your suggestions would greatly help.
    And by the way…….. Pros and Cons of NPP (Nuclear Power Plants) will never end….. So let this discussion come to an end.

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Jan 25, 2014 - 6:07PM

    I would suggest that the project director go and read some news. The initial exclusion zone in Fukushima had a radius of 20 kilometer which was later stretched to 30 km before shrinking back to 20 km after the cold shutdown. I assure you these five kilometers from GADAP include millions of people.

    Why can’t we build the plant somewhere more inland? Or away from Karachi? Every Pakistani knows we need energy but sandwiching Karachi with Coal Plants airing poison on one side and nuclear threat on the other is suicidal.

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  • Asad Mahmood
    Jan 25, 2014 - 8:29PM

    Bhai jan Loobies play role…………….. Both Nuclear and RE sector have lobbies /cartel…………PAEC walay ghas khain gay agar nuclear power plants na hon…..Climate change ka rola dal k Renewable Energy walay business chala rahay hain ….. Have you ever thought k kitni companies wind turbines bnati hain and from which country …… similarly PV Panels and electronic grade silicon refining kon kon kar raha hai….None of them are concern about environment ….Chanda They are selling their PRODUCTS only…….Link the energy costing to the depth of people’s pocket that upto which cost they can afford paying for electricity …this is the question that needs to be answered………….IN PAKISTAN ,ENERGY AT AFFORDABLE COST IS THE QUESTION

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  • Khan
    Jan 25, 2014 - 8:40PM

    Say what you will but as long as the reactors are made in China no one can guarantee their quality.

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  • George Kamburoff
    Jan 25, 2014 - 9:16PM

    I suggest these nuclear engineers go to Fukushima. It should be Basic Training for all nuclear lovers.

    As a Research Engineer I tested the safety components of these GE Mark I & II reactors. They left me very worried, and fearful of the secrecy and insularity of the entire nuclear field. Worse yet, as we were finishing up, Three Mile Island melted down, and I saw the endless streams of lies from everybody concerned.

    As a Senior Engineer in Technical Services for Pacific Gas & Electric, I saw how these things get one, and learned to not trust businessmen, who will do whatever it takes to get their way, . . . and their profits.

    I feel genuinely sorry for the folk who took the hard classes, the math and thermo, and got stuck when their dream to save us from energy problems turned into a brutal nightmare. They are not going to save us, they are going to kill us with their good intentions and their profits.

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  • George Kamburoff
    Jan 25, 2014 - 9:32PM

    Ask Azfar Minhaj if we can store the intensely-radioactive waste at his house.

    No? Then, on whose land does he want to put it, essentially dangerous forever?

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  • LuvPak!
    Jan 26, 2014 - 12:25AM

    Fukushima’s **back-up batteries were drowned** in Sunami waves because **they were not high** on the hills where they supposed to be but **very low at the same height** of Fukushima plant buildings. The drowning and so the **short circuiting the batteries brought** all this mess there. Had the **batteries were working high on the hills** in the back… the Plant would still be functional today. **Are the back-up batteries of K2, K3** are nearby or on further away higher ground in Karachi?Recommend

  • Baloch
    Jan 26, 2014 - 2:26PM

    For those criticizing Pakistan and saying we shouldn’t even compare ourselves with Japan:

    Nuclear Meltdowns:

    Japan: 1
    Pakistan: 0

    So which country has a better nuclear record? Facts speak for themselves.

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  • Baloch
    Jan 26, 2014 - 2:28PM

    @Akber:
    Hoodbhoy is biased. He’s anti-nuclear everything, especially when it comes to Pakistan. Get the opinion of neutral nuclear experts.

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  • Sehyr
    Jan 26, 2014 - 2:30PM

    @Akber:
    Lol! Hoodbhoy has never worked inside a nuclear reactor in his life. Since when did he become a nuclear expert. His knowledge of nuclear power is purely academic and theoretical. He has zero practical experience in nuclear energy.

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  • Faisal
    Jan 26, 2014 - 6:23PM

    It would be so much more efficient and green to make kalabagh dam. Cheaper to build, more electricity per dollar, green and environment friendly.

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  • unbelievable
    Jan 26, 2014 - 7:41PM

    Do you really want a nuclear power plant located near one of your largest population centers? Does anyone believe that your govt would give honest and timely information to the people of Karachi if there was a problem? Does anyone really believe that a failure of a power plant would only endanger those people living within 5 miles? Can anyone estimate the number of people who would flee in panic from Karachi if there was a radiation leak or the number that would be trampled/killed in that panic?
    .
    If your determined to have nuclear power plant I suggest you put it somewhere far away from population center and make sure it’s adequately defended from terrorist.

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  • luvdat!
    Jan 26, 2014 - 9:02PM

    @Abdul Hameed: Ha ha ha ha! That was good but… A mad man could not be an expert on statistics & probability… He must be the captain himself or his accountant or the canon projectile expert.

    The aftermath of nuclear accident in a poor third world country would be more horrific than a lab waste bag ripped open in a crowded bus. Or worst… The bus fall into a pool of that.

    Responsible citizen would do a study of Both Russian & Japanese nuclear plant disasters for precaution and safety preparation.

    Recommend

  • UKPak
    Jan 26, 2014 - 10:31PM

    what about when you want to decommission the reactor in the future… It might actually be unfeasible. You Know how much sellafield is costing us in the UK to decommission? 70 Billion pounds!!!

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