PPC reiterates call for complete halt to nuclear energy drive


The Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) has again called for a complete halt to the nuclear energy drive currently being rigorously pursued by South Asian and East Asian countries, particularly India, China, Korea and Pakistan eager to hop on the bandwagon.
In a press statement issued on Saturday – the occasion of the first anniversary of the nuclear emergency in Japan after a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake there on March 11, 2011 that triggered radioactive discharge in the environment from the Fukushima-Daiichi and Fukushima-Daini power stations, the PPC pointed out that following Japan’s nuclear crisis, which is still ongoing, a number of countries revisited their nuclear programmes.
The Swiss government also announced a halt to its nuclear plans because of safety concerns. Germany called off the plan to extend the life of the country’s ageing nuclear power stations. The Italian government stated that it was considering a similar move, while Israel too indicated that it would announce a suspension of its forthcoming nuclear projects.
However, the nuclear energy industry continues to resist the move from world governments turning more aggressively to South Asian and East Asian countries to buy the unpopular nuclear power regime. Despite the Japanese catastrophe, China is building 27 new nuclear power plants on the East coast in addition to its preexisting 14 plants. The Japanese government has not officially discarded its policy of supplying 50 percent of the nation’s electricity with atomic energy, even though 80 percent of the population supports denuclearisation. The Korean government has plans to increase the number of nuclear power plants from 21 to 34 by year 2024.
In South Asia, India relies on nuclear power as the fourth-largest source of electricity.  India has 20 nuclear reactors in operation in six nuclear power plants, generating 4,780MW while seven other reactors are being pursued.  Following India’s stride in the nuclear energy regime, Pakistan too has embarked on a drive to pursue nuclear power plants for the country even though the existing overpriced capacity only contributes minimally to the country’s total power generation exercise.
The PPC demanded that the Pakistani government should 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 coalition observed that generation from nuclear sources contributes merely 2.4 percent of the total installed capacity of 19,252 MW in Pakistan while the hazards it poses far outweigh its utility. 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, and 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, 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. In terms of nuclear arms production, multiple reactors in the country have produced over 100 nuclear weapons so far.
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. On Oct 18 and 19 2011, the KANUPP Karachi nuclear power plant imposed a seven-hour emergency after heavy water leaked from a feeder pipe to the reactor. The leakage took place during a routine maintenance shut down, and the emergency was lifted seven hours later, after the affected area was isolated. Nuclear facilities in Pakistan are precariously located, particularly KANUPP, that 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.
The PPC lamented that the country’s nuclear build up has cost the economy dearly while making absolutely no contribution to the protection of the citizens from the number of security threats faced by the nation. If anything, it has brought further disaster to the country as the security establishment continues to pursue nuclear aspirations at the cost of the economic and social progress of the country. 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 of Pakistan has a responsibility to protect its citizens and calling off nuclear ambitions is the first step in the direction.
The PPC is a civil society initiative for peace launched in September 1998 following the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan. The PPC comprises numerous pro-peace organizations, groups and individuals from across Pakistan. Sharing the common goal for denuclearisation and peace in South Asia, the PPC and its component organisations work with regional movements and organizations on broader themes of: reduction in defense expenditure to promote human development in the two countries; denuclearisation of South Asia; and counter the increasing trends of intolerance and violence in society.