The construction of two mega nuclear reactors (generating capacity of 1000 Megawatts) in the vicinity of Karachi (nearly 20 miles from Downtown Karachi) has sparked controversy in Pakistan. For the first time environment and safety issues are being discussed.
The reason for concern can be justified on two fronts. Firstly it is believed that the location for construction of nuclear reactor is on the seafront which is earthquake prone thus violating the geographical norms. After Fukushima the countries have become more careful in avoiding the seismic zones especially areas which are prone to Tsunami. Countries like Japan and France who have the latest technology to withstand major catastrophes have also become more introspective as far as following various parameters of nuclear technology is concerned. In such a situation the wisdom of the government’s decision to go along with the construction can be debated. Also considering Karachi is one of the most populous city in the world (nearly 20 million people resides there) and the density of population is 6663 people per square kms, thus it questions the human safety issues. It is always advisable that nuclear reactors should be constructed in less populated areas so that in case of a nuclear accident the damage could be controlled, because unlike other eventualities controlling a nuclear accident is a difficult task which requires mass evacuation (as often the area is uninhabitable for long years). If Karachi which is the commercial engine of Pakistan is affected then it would be economic as well as social disaster for Pakistan. The other significant aspect is the technology used for this construction .The new design supplied by the Chinese has not been used anywhere in the world so the technological challenges cannot be factored in the process. Pakistan as an operator would not know the technical operational hazards pertaining to this new technology and would have to rely on self-experience, in other words China through Pakistan is fine tuning its nuclear technology.
The other most important aspect is the nuclear safety and security of the nuclear power plant. Considering Pakistan is infested with terror groups and especially Karachi has a history of insurgency (Taliban insurgents storming Karachi International airport and the Karachi naval airbase attack in 2011) it questions the judiciousness of this project. Terrorist acquiring nuclear fissile material is a most dangerous proposition not only for Pakistan but for the entire region. Dirty bombs can create panic and bring instability. Thus it is essential that all the pros and cones of the projects should be deliberated before any decision is executed.