Pakistani experts raise question about nuclear power project

NuclearPakistan's nuclear physicists say 20 million people of Karachi are being used as subjects in a giant nuclear safety experiment. (PTI)

Three leading physicists have raised key questions about the safety, design and cost of Pakistan's largest nuclear power plant being built with Chinese assistance in the port city of Karachi.

The Karachi complex will have two nuclear reactors with a production capacity of 2,200 MW. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the project, estimated to cost USD 9.6 billion and scheduled to be completed in six years, late last month.

In an article published in the influential Dawn daily on Monday, experts Pervez Hoodbhoy, A H Nayyar and Zia Mian said the project would use a reactor being developed by a Chinese state-run firm that currently exists only on paper.

"This will be by far the largest nuclear construction project ever in Pakistan. It is not too late to ask a few basic questions so that people, especially those living in Karachi, know what they may be letting themselves in for," they wrote.

They said everyone knew the reactors were being purchased from China, and will built by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

"What people may not know is that the reactors will be based on a design known as the ACP-1000 that is still under development by this Chinese nuclear power company," they said.

"In effect, Pakistanis are buying reactors for the Karachi site that so far exist only on paper and in computer programmes, there is no operating reactor in China based on this design."

It was reported in April that CNNC had completed a "preliminary safety analysis report" and was "working on construction design" of the ACP-1000. This means there is not even a complete design so far.

Since the reactors at the Karachi complex will be the first of a kind, no one knows how safe they will be or how well they will work, the article said.

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