Last November, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif performed the ground breaking ceremony of Pakistan’s largest nuclear power projects, Kanupp-II and Kanupp-III. China is providing the two reactors alongside a concessional loan of $6.5 billion for the construction of these $9.59 billion plants. When completed in November 2019, these would add 2,200MW to Pakistan’s electric power, at a very cheap rate. This would indeed mitigate the problems of power shortage and high per-unit cost of electricity. Average price of power generated by Chashma-3 and 4 would be around Rs9.59 per unit, much less than the price of electricity generated by thermal plants running on gas or oil. Due to economy of scales, new Kanupp category plants would produce cheaper electricity than the Chashma class power plants. Nuclear power compares favourably with all other sources except hydro-electric power.
However, after Fukushima important lessons have been learnt and the possibility of accidents occurring in unexpected ways is fully recognised and preventive mechanisms are duly incorporated in the designs of present day nuclear power plants. Post-Fukushima, nuclear power plants are being equipped to cope with the most unlikely scenarios of total blackout and non-functionality of several of the engineered safety features incorporated in these plants. These include multiple barriers in the design and several levels of safety assurance throughout the design, construction and operational phases. These safety upgrades are already being retrofitted in the present operating plants and would be inbuilt features of the new Karachi plants.
Even the Fukushima power plants had survived the massive earthquake that accompanied the tidal wave, but it was the latter tsunami, which incapacitated the emergency diesel generators, that caused the plants to collapse. Subsequent to Fukushima, studies were carried out for the Karachi sites to ensure that the plant systems to be built would survive the biggest earthquake and tsunami that can be expected in the area.
After Fukushima, most countries have continued to construct and plan for new power plants. In Asia the number of under-construction and planned power plants is the highest in the world; around 49 reactors are presently under construction, and there are firm plans for over a 100 more. Countries where these projects are underway include India, China, South Korea and Pakistan. These 149 reactors will be in addition to the 435 reactors already in operation in the world.
Questions are being raised about the design model of Karachi power plants. It has been claimed that the design of the Karachi plants, the ACP 1000, is still under development and thus untried and untested. This is not correct. This design is based on the PWR concept, very similar to the hundreds of such systems operating around the world for more than 50 years. Chashma 1 and 2 power plants are also based on the PWR designs.
The ACP1000 model of the PWR concept, to be commissioned in Karachi, is not an unproven design. The ACP1000 uses the basic PWR design with safety improvements added, to meet the current safety targets of Generation-III reactors and after incorporating the lessons learnt from the Fukushima accident. It is based on the earlier CPR1000 design, which has been used in 15 plants now under construction in China, of which the first unit started operations in 2010.
Read more at Nuclear power generation
Related article: Energy ensures stability for Pakistan via Global Times
Peaceful use of nuclear constitutes an effective way to bridge energy gap in the future and non-nuclear states cannot and shall not be deprived of the right to peaceful nuclear power application with the excuse of non-proliferation.
Both articles endorse Pakistan’s reliance of nuclear energy and its amicable relationship with China. But the most shocking description is “peaceful use of nuclear” in the Global Times article, which seems an obsolete remark, if not absurd, taking into consideration the environmental hazard (thereby affecting people’s health) in the process of nuclear mining, the operation of energy plants, and in the treatment of spent nuclear fuel.