Pakistan: Nuclear Option

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Samuel Butler, author of “Way of All Flesh”, a writer with great insight in human psychology rightly stated, “Opinions have vested interests, just as men have.” After Pakistan began its pursuit of nuclear weapons, many Pakistanis and foreigners feared the nuclear bomb would be an Islamic bomb, in line with the country’s “creation myth” that it would have a pan-Islamic vision. Now same hype has been created over a period of time regarding the Pakistan’s civilian nuclear plants to be installed near Karachi.

The social scientific experts have once again ensued a debate attacking nuclear power that demonstrate a disturbing and frightening truth, a truth that has nothing to do with nuclear energy. Reading Karachi’s citizens fear ‘nuclear nightmare’  make depressingly clear that our intellectual ability to think carefully and objectively about the enormous and complex threats (energy shortfalls) we face is hogtied by powerful subconscious instincts that produce perceptions based far more on emotion than reason.

These all concerns raised advocates action to combat climate change of course, including clean energy. For these so called green peace lovers nuclear power remains a technological bogeyman that any true back-to-nature environmentalist is simply expected to oppose.

These Friends of the Earth knew very well that human being have evolved, as social animals, the groups we identify with, for our very health and safety. It feels safe to go with what the group says, rather than think independently and take the risk of disagreeing with the group’s belief.

Time has come to keep an open mind and think about things carefully and objectively. To build these plants is indeed the need of the hour, once they’re up and running they produce energy, more reliably than fossil fuels, and certainly far more reliably than the wind that sometimes doesn’t blow and the sun which sometimes doesn’t shine.

Karachi is economic capital of Pakistan and these nuclear power plants are environmentally clean, safe and secure source of energy. Fukushima disaster is the first fear that these activists trying to cash in the minds of karachites. But they forgot to mention that lessons have learnt whatever happened in wake of Fukushima. PAEC have fully recognised the after effects that occurred after Fukushima and preventive mechanisms are provided in the design of new nuclear reactors.

Now comes the questions of the reactor design that is ACP1000. It is being claimed that the reactor design is still under developed and untested which is incorrect. The reactor is being approved by IAEA and its design is based on the ones currently working at Chashma 1 and 2 PWR design for around 50 years. Thus the criticism on the design is not valid as it is based on the earlier CPR-1000 design, which has been used in 15 plants now under construction in China, of which the first unit started operations in 2010.

On the criticisms over the site and location of the plant there are ample evidences presented by Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). PNRA have meticulously examined and scrutinised the entire project, in which exercise it has also consulted with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on all technical aspects of the planned power plants. The provincial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also given its approval after due diligence. So it is important to recall how some groups criticised Chashma nuclear plants when they were launched and mentioned the debates on whether or not the plants will sink or explode in an earthquake.

Referring to Fukushima melt-down, Japan’s new government is restarting its nuclear power plants that were closed after the Fukushima incident. The current Japanese government believes that the use of nuclear energy is necessary to help reduce current energy supply strains and alleviate high electricity prices. By 2030, Pakistan’s energy requirements will reach 160,000MW and the exaggerated coal reservoirs will last only 14 years, So nuclear plants seen as answer to city`s water, power needs.

Nations debate, take a decision and move ahead but we get stuck in debates and fail to make a decision. It’s time to move past old-school reflexive opposition to nuclear energy. Acquiring 2200MW plants with help of China will have enormous benefits underlying the paucity of power in a city that is hungry for energy, given its growing energy needs for the future.

By Usman Ali Khan

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