KARACHI: Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) on Thursday defended the setting up of twin nuclear power plants in Karachi, submitting in the Sindh High Court (SHC) that the work on the nuclear power plants was commenced after fulfilling all technical, scientific, economic, legal, financial and environmental prerequisites.
Headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, a division bench was hearing a petition filed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Dr Pervaiz Amirali Hoodbhoy and others, who had approached the court challenging Sepa’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report that accorded its approval to establishment of two nuclear power plants in Karachi.
The bench extended till November 12 its injunction, barring PAEC from carrying out work on the nuclear power plants without adhering to the environmental laws.
In response to the court notice, PAEC’s secretary submitted the comments, stating that ACP-1000 nuclear reactors were based on the pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) concept, which has been the workhorse of the nuclear industry for past five decades, adding hundreds of reactors of this type were operating around the world. What differs ACP1000 from previous generation PWRs is a number of additional safety measures to meet the safety targets of generation-III plants.
He denied that PAEC had failed to offer and make public credible plan for emergency evacuation of the citizens in case of any nuclear accident, stating that setting up an emergency plan and carrying out emergency drills is mandatory requirement set forth by PNRA and the PAEC had fulfilled the requirement. He said experience learnt from the Fukushima nuclear accident showed that most health impacts had arisen from misjudged reactions to the accident, such as forcing evacuation even if they were not justified on an objective basis.
Moreover, he said, extensive studies have been carried out for establishing power plants on the proposed site to ensure that the plant would survive the largest earthquake and tsunami. He said PAEC was exempted from having public hearing regarding suitability of the site for the nuclear plants in Karachi under section 12(3) of the EPA 1997. Besides, he said, the aspects of the radiation or approval of the nuclear plant is not the domain of the Sepa but in fact the jurisdiction of the PNRA under the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority Ordinance 1984, there is no requirement for public hearing or public participation.
He said the petitioners have failed to make out a case based on merit, therefore, he requested the court to dismiss the petition.
PNRA in its reply said the site registered for the construction of twin nuclear power plants was located in Deh Lal Bakhar which is 23kilometer away from Karachi and in close proximity to existing nuclear power plant. No new area was selected for these plants. KANUPP has been operating in the area for the last 42 years without any accident under PNRA regularly oversight.
Earlier, counsel for petitioners submitted that PAEC had started preparing the site for two large nuclear power plants in Karachi namely K-2 and K-3 and each of these reactors will produce approximately 1100 megawatt power.
He said that the twin nuclear reactors will be based on a design known as the ACP-1000. He said these types of reactors are not even operating in China as they only exist on the paper and in computer. This type of rectors will be used for the first time in Karachi.
He said that the safety precautions, which are required to be adopted by authorities, are still unclear and uncertain, posing serious threat to health and life of the people of the city.
Counsel said that nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 and Ukraine’s Chernobyl in 1986 have raised serious concerns about the safety measures and required large-scale evacuation to save the people from deadly radioactivity blown from the nuclear plant. He told the judges that Karachi, which is densely populated, lacks infrastructure for mass evacuation in case of possible nuclear accident.
Counsel submitted that PAEC had approached the Sepa for its approval on the project. Subsequently it issued environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the project while approving it. He argued that EIA report was issued without complying with provisions of related environment laws as no public hearing was held regarding suitability of the site for the nuclear plants in Karachi.
Therefore, he requested the court to declare as illegal Sepa’s approval to the project and direct authorities to conduct public hearing and enlighten people of Karachi about the project before approving it.