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Myths about Pakistan’s nuclear energy programme

# 1: The launch of new nuclear power plants in Pakistan will flare up radiation distribution in Pakistan’s atmosphere.

TRUTH: Every person on planet earth is surrounded by naturally occurring or artificial nuclear radiations. Human body also inhabits radioactive substances in it. In Pakistan, total production from 3 nuclear power plants is 792 MW whereas, in USA the total nuclear production comes out to be 98,476 MW from 99 nuclear power plants. It is found that all these 99 nuclear power plants contribute only a small amount as low as 0.005% to the total annual radiation dose from all other sources, so it is not hard to comprehend that how low will be the contribution of nuclear power plants in Pakistan that are almost 20% less in number than that of USA. Therefore, it is understandable that nuclear power plants can not be a major source to cultivate and hasten the annual radiation dose in Pakistan.


# 2: A nuclear reactor can explode like a nuclear bomb.


TRUTH: It is impractical for a reactor to explode like a nuclear weapon; it is same as producing flood from a bucket of water. Nuclear weapons contain very special materials in particular configurations, which nuclear reactors completely miss out. Atomic weapons entail a specific design that momentarily confines the outburst to allow as many neutrons as possible to interact with the fissile material. Nuclear reactors design is entirely different. Reactors are designed to pass on their energy at a much slower rate than bombs do.


#3: Nuclear energy is bad for the environment.

TRUTH: The biggest challenge to environment are the greenhouse gases (GHG), the greenhouse gases emission from nuclear power plants is void. Thus, it is false acuity that nuclear energy is bad for environment. In fact, nuclear energy is the most environmental friendly because of non emission of toxic greenhouse gases. Over their full lifetimes, they result in comparable emissions to renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar. In addition, nuclear energy involves less land use than most other forms of energy.


# 4: Nuclear energy is not safe.


TRUTH: Nuclear energy is safer than any other energy forms available. In 50 years history, no person and the workers have been harmed by commercial use of nuclear power in USA.  In fact, recent studies have shown that it is safer to work in a nuclear power plant than an office. According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), total 2482 industrial accidents occurred in Pakistan from 2004 to 2009 i.e. on average, 414 industrial accidents occur annually in Pakistan. This doesn’t mean that industry should be banned; but safety measures should be improved.


Similarly, large numbers of people become victim of traffic accidents annually in Pakistan. Has any one raised voice to ban vehicles? The answer is definitely a big ‘NO’ for the very right reason that all these are necessities of present day life. Without an iota of doubt nuclear energy is the safest form of energy and the number of nuclear accidents that had occurred in past in the world occurred due to series of negligence. In addition, there is not a single causality or injury occurred in Pakistan in its nuclear power generation history of 22 years.    


# 5: There is no solution for huge amounts of nuclear waste being generated.


TRUTH: Almost 95% of nuclear waste can be recycled. Used fuel is currently being safely stored in Poole longer term storage at each site. So, at first there is no “huge” amount involved in fact there is negligible and manageable amount of nuclear waste that has to be stored.


# 6: Most people in Pakistan don’t support nuclear energy.


TRUTH: In 2011, a global survey conducted by WIN-Gallup International in 47 countries across the globe shows that supporters of nuclear energy who are 49% of the polled world still out number its opponents, who constitute 43%. According to the survey, views in Pakistan, where the nuclear debate is intensely adhered to its military dimension, support for civilian use of nuclear technology has remained largely stable and dropped by only 2%. In Pakistan, support level declined from 55% to 53% after Fukushima disaster. 


# 7: A Pakistani “Chernobyl” would kill thousands of people.

TRUTH: A Chernobyl type accident could not have happened outside of the Soviet Union because this type of reactor was never built or operated here. The known fatalities during the Chernobyl accident were mostly emergency first responders. Of the people known to have received a high radiation dose, the increase in cancer incidence is too small to measure due to other causes of cancer such as air pollution and tobacco use.


# 8: Nuclear waste can not be safely transported.

TRUTH: Nuclear fuel is not transported in Pakistan instead it is stored at site. Therefore, the transportation issue of nuclear waste is not an imminent problem.


# 9: ACP-1000 is untested design and is therefore unsafe.

TRUTH: According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts who reviewed the ACP-1000 reactor design, the ACP-1000’s safety features use advanced nuclear power technology that is in accordance with international safety requirements. The design has been validated through detailed experiments and is safe and reliable. Moreover, American AP-1000, French EPR nuclear plants which are under construction are also never “tested” anywhere in the world before. So, as per the “logic of untested,” a great lapse has been made by these two super powers as well and their population must be at a larger risk than the off shores of Karachi.


# 10: No emergency preparedness and evacuation plan is there in case of disaster.

TRUTH: Emergency preparedness and evacuation plans must be devised by the civic authorities in order to counter the natural disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes etc. Firstly, evacuation plan for tsunami threat must be completed and same evacuation plan could be replicated for nuclear accidents as well which is less likely to occur as compared to tsunami as experts suggest.


# 11: The Fukushima nuclear accident has shown that safety systems can fail catastrophically.


TRUTH: Fukushima accident has sparked public misunderstanding of nuclear risk. The nuclear power industry has improved the safety requisites and parameters, and has proposed new and safer reactor designs. Moreover, an accident can not occur in such systems unless a series of negligence is not instigated and that is obviously not possible under revised and stringent international standards that have been made obligatory.


The author is associated with Weekly Technology Times as Editorial Assistant. He can be reached at ahsan@technologytimes.pk.


Short Link: http://technologytimes.pk/post.php?id=7553



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