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August 22, 2015

Experts, civil society decry nuclear power projects


August 22, 2015

Representatives of fishermen and the civil society along with academia expressed grave dismay over the inauguration by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of the next phase of construction of two nuclear power plants near Paradise Point on his visit to the city two days earlier.
In a joint statement issued on Friday, the chairman of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) Karamat Ali, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) president Mohammad Ali Shah, chief of Shehri-Citizens for Better Environment Roland deSouza, vice chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asad Iqbal Butt, physicist Dr AH Nayyar and senior architect Dr Arif Belgaumi expressed that the project was moving forward with reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing of the 20 million people living in Karachi.
They said the federal and provincial governments had failed to seriously consider the risks incurred from these nuclear power plants and the potentially devastating consequences of a nuclear accident.
They said the approval for the project came without a proper public consultation and the project involves repeated failures to uphold environmental laws devised to protect the public.
They said the disregard for public consultations and legal obligations had become evident when initially the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was submitted in utmost secrecy and not made accessible for public via a consultation process.
They lambasted the Sindh Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) for becoming a part of this recklessness when it first approved the initial EIA report in haste without public consultation, even though it was required by law. They said though a public hearing had been held later at the orders of Sindh High Court buts its manner was highly objectionable.
They said the SEPA with its hasty approval of the project had deliberately chosen to overlook a number of objections raised by the public and it violated its own laws when

failed to inform the commentators why their critical comments were rejected or ignored.
The experts and civil society members said SEPA’s approval glossed over serious threats to public interests and the environment.
Moreover, they said, the SEPA also callously overlooked the fact that the nuclear reactor’s spent fuel storage pool could also face an accident and such an event there was nothing to stop a very high level of lethal radioactivity to be dispersed in the direction of some of the densely populated areas of the city.
They complained SEPA’s blanket approval had failed to challenge the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) into including, as required by its own laws, alternative sources of electricity through wind and solar power which were the most-rapidly growing sources of electric power across the world. Even in China, they said, annual growth in nuclear power plants was only five to ten percent of the wind power plants.
Besides risks to life, the experts said, the project completely ignored the social and economic consequences of a major nuclear accident in Karachi and evacuation strategy for the people. The project’s proponents have not considered the effect of a serious reactor accident on industries and businesses.
However, they said, what was most alarming was the unreasonable refusal on the part of the PAEC to accept that a breach in the reactor area would release lethal radioactivity in the environment. They said the sea breeze blows towards the city most of the year, further augmenting the risk while the PAEC, SEPA and other relevant authorities keep refusing to accept international recommendations of building nuclear power reactors at least 30 kilometres away from population centres.
Moreover, they said, the reactor would also release a large amount of heat into the Arabian Sea for the next 60 years, harming marine life and thus the livelihood of fishermen.
Besides, the reactor was a new design which had never been tested. Hualong-1 design is a hybrid French technology and the first reactor of this kind being constructed in China with at least 15 percent of its components imported from France. The experts said China will not be allowed to use those components in the reactors being built in Karachi and instead the parts will be Chinese, making the city the first testing ground for the equipment.
They demanded that the construction of nuclear reactors should be stopped because the Environmental Impact Assessment process was deeply flawed.

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