Published On: Tue, Feb 11th, 2014

In Defence Of Nuclear Energy In Pakistan – OpEd

Karachi-Nuclear-Power-Plant

In response to a talk by Dr.  AH Nayyar, and Pervaiz Hoodboy against Pakistan’s Karachi Power Plant, the authors argue that Pakistan has a sufficient infrastructure to exploit nuclear energy for the future production of power, however, it will be necessary to expand this option to meet the country’s future demand for electricity.

By Ahmad Khan and Beenish Altaf

Whenever the word ‘nuclear’ crops up in the mind of nuclear pessimists, it antagonizes them against nuclear energy. The overwhelmed pessimism prompts them to relate this word with a ‘mushroom cloud’ or the Three Miles Island, the Chernobyl incident, the Fukushima nuclear disasters and whatever they can help them accelerate their drive against the taboo behind this word in their own little steps of morality.

This pessimistic nuance tries to outweigh the enormous peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The so-called green activists do not want nuclear energy to be exploited. They think it a curse and a poison for human civilization and while their suggestions may seem logical to the layman mindset, this logic is a set of tilted arguments that have nothing to do with the word ‘impartiality’.

Perhaps, they are not getting the point that since the beginning of the 20th century, the major invention was the discovery of atomic structure of the element. Moreover, the discovery prompted the scientists to break this atomic structure to get maximum energy from it, which was never done before. In fact, no other means have been discovered yet to get maximum energy.

In addition to this, nuclear technology is much more than just building nuclear weapons.

So, the argument ‘no to nuclear energy’ is against the very spirit of scientific discovery, which has revalorized the human civilization in the 20th century. In fact, the discovery of atomic structure marks the beginning of the modern world.

It is understandable that the challenges and the prospects of this discovery are enormous. But, it is human strength to overcome the odds.

Today, Pakistan has a sufficient infrastructure to exploit nuclear energy for future production of power; however, it is necessary to expand this viable option to meet the future demand of power in the country.

Pakistan is the only Muslim country, which has successfully utilized nuclear technology for both peaceful purposes as well as solidifying its defence against its adversary.

The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has successfully built Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs), operated and maintained them with an experience of more than 45 years.

NPPs are the not the only products of PAEC, but it has successfully exploited Nuclear energy in the field of food, agriculture, medicine, industry, environment, and Human Resource Development.
PAEC has established four agriculture and biotechnology institutes across Pakistan. PAEC has built 18 state-of-the-art Cancer hospitals across Pakistan, which are especially build for diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Pakistan.

Moreover, in the industry and environment fields, Research and Development (R & D) has resulted into enormous success over the years.

One should not neglect that these peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology cannot be outweigh by pessimistic approach. In fact, in the spectrum of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, building NPPs is the on the top of the list, whereas, other uses come later on.

In fact, rationalizing pessimistic approach towards building NPPs is an effort to undermine the overall peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
For last two decades, Pakistan’s energy crisis is one of its biggest challenges which also profoundly impinge upon its national security.
The energy resources and especially energy reserves are considered a crucial index of national security matrix. Right now Pakistan is rated among those countries that have dangerously crossed the energy security risk index in past few. According to International Energy security Risk Index 2012, Pakistan’s index scores were 1,365, whereas India and China index scores were 1,045 and 1,098 respectively.

The economic cost of energy crisis is unbearable to Pakistan.
Energy crisis has become a nuisance for the people of Pakistan. Pakistan as a developing country is now facing the biggest challenge to its national security because of the energy deficiency.

It is so because, energy generation through hydel sources is seasonal; coal reserves are not being aptly consumed for power generation, not to mention their extreme derogation of the atmosphere; renewable sources of energy are totally neglected to produce power as they are too expensive at status quo for the government to afford and maintain at large scales.

Furthermore, power generation through expensive means—IPPs and Rental Power Plants; has solidified the energy crisis and even though they may not be cost effective, they do serve as an ad hoc arrangement till Pakistan develops a more cost effective and sustainable power arrangement in both generation and distribution.

Where the plans for the fairly distant future are either too expensive or too far, there is one option that Pakistan has not only tried but also has immense variety and expansion potential as tested throughout the world over; the option for nuclear energy, which can end this energy crisis. Nuclear Pessimists believe that nuclear energy is costly, dirty and dangerous but, they are unable to understand that it is sustainable, cheap (tariff cost), and once the power plant is installed it initiates returning its capital investment in a brief period of time. PAEC has planned to expand its capacity from 730 MWs to 8000 MWs which is substantial amount of power to meet the future demand.

Nuclear energy along with thermal, hydel, and alternative sources (wind and solar etc.) will be enough to bring Pakistan out of the long shadows of energy crisis.

Right Now, only three NPPs are operational, whereas, two more are under construction C-3 and C-4. Besides that K-2 and K-3 ground breaking ceremony has already taken place. But, a campaign has been launched in Pakistan by some segments of the nuclear pessimists’ camp against the building of K-2 and K-3 projects. They are objecting on the siting, design, construction and commissioning of K-2 and K-3 NPPs.

The campaign is based on creating fears regarding the possibility of a Tsunami or an earth quake hitting these NPPs in future, consequently adversely compromising the safety of the environment; including the human and animal life.

In fact, the tsunami and earth quake possibility hitting these NPPs is quite bleak.

The reactor design ACP-1000 is based on PWR type reactors; except the passive safety measures, which are the additional measures contemplated in the overall design of the reactors.
The SER report has meet the international standards, which also include 2081 projection of population in Karachi.

Likewise, one of the major concerns raised by nuclear pessimists is a terrorist activity by non-state actors, which involves an act of sabotage or a missile piercing into the nuclear reactor.

But our contention is what else these 25000 SPD’ trained security personnel are doing. For what purpose a three layered security system has been installed and operationalized? It is obvious that all these security measures are put in place to protect these facilities from any terrorist attack.

In conclusion, it’s a known fact that no other source can produce this enormous amount of energy than energy from nuclear? The pessimistic approach about building new NPPs at Karachi is appalling, and having it followed with an unhindered campaign which is based on fear mongering is abysmal. The challenges and prospects to utilize this option for future power production and other peaceful uses are vast; however, saying no to nuclear energy isn’t rational nor is it beneficial to address our acute energy crises.

Ahmad Khan and Beenish Altaf work for the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad. They can be contacted at infostrategicvision@gmail.com

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