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April 27, 2011

PPC demands immediate halt to nuclear programmes


April 27, 2011

The Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) on Tuesday urged the government to immediately stall the ongoing nuclear programmes, both pertaining to arms as well as power generation, as the world marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.
The Chernobyl accident in the then USSR (now Ukraine) caused 64 deaths, according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates deaths potentially resulting from the accident to stand at 4,000. The explosion released about 400 times more radiation than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Hundreds of thousands fell ill and once-pristine forest and farmland of the region still remain contaminated. Nearly 25 years after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, exposure to radioactive iodine from fallout continues to cause thyroid cancers that are still occurring among the people who lived in the Chernobyl area at the time of the accident.
In the wake of the disastrous consequences of the recent tsunami on the nuclear power installations in Japan, leading nations of the world are already revisiting their nuclear programmes. China has already suspended approval of future nuclear power projects, including those in the preliminary stages of development. Germany has called off the plan to extend the life of the country’s ageing nuclear power stations. The Swiss government also announced a halt to its nuclear plans, while the Italian and the Israel governments are considering a similar move.
The radiation leaks at the two nuclear power stations, Fukushima-Daiichi and Fukushima-Daini in Japan, following a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast last month had put the population of Japan at great risk, while questions about the impact on the world environment of a meltdown of the core of the nuclear reactors come under continuous debate. The

Fukushima Daiichi plant radiation leaks have already forced the evacuation of some 80,000 people within 20kms of the site.
The PPC urged the government to put a stop to the ongoing nuclear programmes, while any plans of expanding the country’s current nuclear power generation capacity must be immediately called off. The nuclear contribution to current total electricity supply in Pakistan is very limited, while the hazards it poses far outweigh its utility. Nuclear capacity represents merely 2.4 per cent of the total installed capacity of 19,252 MW in Pakistan (recent estimates). Totally dependent on state funding due to their astronomically high cost of establishment and maintenance, there is general consensus that nuclear plants are a costlier option, deliver less electrical service per dollar compared to other sources of electricity generation. They are also described as “climate protection loser”, causing worst climate effect, and in case of disaster, they cause worst environment destruction as witnessed in Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island accidents.
The PPC criticised the relentless pursuit of nuclear capacity by the state. Pakistan currently operates two nuclear power plants – the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) and the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant-1 (CHASNUPP-1).
In terms of nuclear arms production, multiple reactors in the country have so far produced over 100 nuclear weapons. The safety of the current nuclear installations remain a concern, since there is very little information on security measures adopted to protect the population from any potential risk in case of striking any of the country’s plants.
Nuclear facilities in Pakistan are precariously located, particularly the KANUPP, which is stationed next to the coast. An earlier letter written by civil society organisation to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to demand a copy of the Karachi Emergency Relief Plan in case of a nuclear disaster met with no response. Concerns have also been raised against the authorities’ practice of dumping uranium waste near the mines in Dera Ghazi Khan.
According to reports, the incidence of leukemia is higher in the region.
In the wake of the unprecedented crisis in Japan and the resultant threat to human life, water bodies and the eco systems, and considering the response of the developed countries to re-think the direction of their nuclear policy, the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and calling off nuclear ambitions is the first step in the direction.

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