KARACHI: Social scientists, activists and civil society members on Wednesday expressed serious concerns over the installation of two nuclear power plants along Karachi coast.
They were speaking at a dialogue on 'Impacts of Nuclear Power Projects (K-II and K-III) along the Coastal Areas', jointly organised by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), ActionAid Pakistan and Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) at a local hotel.
The participants demanded government to inform people about the dangers of the project and to provide exact data for public awareness regarding the dangers of nuclear energy.
Noted scientists, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy and Dr AH Nayyar, Executive Director of PILER Karamat Ali, Chairman of PFF Mohammad Ali Shah were the main speakers at the dialogue.
Dr Hoodbhoy said the government has not considered the dangers of the nuclear power plants and these plants along the Karachi coast would pose a great danger to human lives in case of any accident. He recalled that radiation could start because of an earthquake, tsunami or terrorist act.
All over the world, nuclear power plants are being closed down, and countries like Germany, Japan and Switzerland are now shifting to alternative energy options.
He said a human error at Chernobyl power plant in 1980s caused about 8,000 to 24,000 deaths. The deaths because of cancer are uncounted. The radiation can mutate the genes of people and create permanent disabilities for centuries.
Fukushima incident in Japan has further changed the world's thinking towards the nuclear power. The affects of radiation emitted from Fukushima reactors are still being felt after a passage of three years, he added.
After Chernobyl and Fukushima it was decided all over the world that nuclear power plants should not be established near a city.
People are not allowed to live in 20-kilometre radius of Fukushima nuclear power plants. The experts know that there would be no agriculture production or fish surviving in the sea for many years.
The renowned physicist reminded of the dangers of living on a coastline prone to both tsunamis and earthquakes, and said, "I am worried about operators' error or some terrorism incidents which can cause destruction of the nuclear reactors of these power plants. In case of any accident, the deaths in Karachi may not be in hundreds, but may be in hundreds of thousands."
Dr Hoodbhoy regretted that developed countries were closing down nuclear power reactors, while China could not find a buyer except Pakistan in the world. China is also providing $6.5 billion loan to Pakistan for purchasing the nuclear reactors.
He asked why alternative energy like wind and solar were not being used. In 2013 alone, Germany installed wind power plants with a capacity to produce 25,000MW, which is almost equal to the total installed capacity of Pakistan, which is around 23,000MW. "We need to look into the options we have, like Thar coal and building small dams," he said.
Senior physicist Dr AH Nayyar said at the moment, the total installed capacity of nuclear power plants was 725MW, including 125MW power plant at KANUPP that was established in 1971 and two reactors of 300MW each at Chashma. All these nuclear power plants cover only a total 3 percent of the total energy production. By 2030 Pakistan intends to install 8800MW.
He said two reactors of 1100MW in Karachi would need a lot of water and when that water would be disposed off in the sea, which would create pollution and harm fish stocks and human lives.
He regretted that only SITE Evaluation Report of the project has been prepared so far. Reactor Safety Report and Environmental Impact Analysis have not been made so far. He said Makran coast is termed tsunamigenic, where tsunami waves of 10 metres were witnessed after the 1945 earthquake. That earthquake caused life and property loss on Bombay coast, 1100 km away, and cut boats off mooring 1500 km away on Indian west coast.
He feared that in case of an accident, the evacuation of the population was difficult in Karachi without an effective disaster management system.
Speaking about monetary interests, Dr Nayyar said Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was establishing more nuclear power plants to assert its importance and claim a share in national resources. The PAEC received a budget of Rs 52-56 billion this year.
Terming the decision a blatant violation of the 18th Amendment in the Constitution, PILER's Karamat Ali said neither the government, nor the people of Karachi were taken into confidence prior to the installation of power plants in the metropolis.
Moreover, he said Article 19-A provides right to information, which does not mean that a citizen asks for the information, but that the government seeks the people's point of view by holding public hearings for such huge projects.
He further said that the right to life was also ensured in the Constitution, which means all possible dangers to human lives should be prevented and people informed of those dangers.
"Possibility of corruption cannot be ruled out in these deals. Someone has already acquired $600-700 million commission by allowing such huge projects," Ali claimed.
"There should be a regional positions on nuclear power in South Asian countries because other countries are also in the race to install nuclear power plants."
Mohammad Ali Shah said people living on the coastal belts were not taken into confidence and the government had made decisions in a clandestine manner.
The existing nuclear power plants at Chashma and KANUPP were already posing threats to lives and livelihoods. With looming threats of terror activities, there were no studies available to confirm safety levels.
Ellahi Bukhsh of SPO and Project Director of K-II and K-II Azfar Minhaj also spoke on the occasion.
On October 18, 2011 the KANUPP Karachi nuclear power plant imposed a seven-hour emergency after water leaked from a feeder pipe to the reactor. The leakage started during a routine maintenance shut down. After the leakage was detected the emergency was imposed at the plant and the affected area was isolated.
Threatening power :
* Radiation could start because of an earthquake, tsunami or terrorist act
* Nuclear power plants are being closed down, and countries like Germany, Japan and Switzerland are now shifting to alternative energy
* Chernobyl power plant in 1980s caused about 8,000 to 24,000 deaths
* Radiation can mutate the genes of people and create permanent disabilities for centuries
* Radiation emitted from Fukushima reactors are still being felt after a passage of three years