Global fears grow with building of nuclear reactor in Karachi

Posted Mar 9, 2015 by Karen Graham
China has reportedly signed an agreement with Pakistan to supply two nuclear reactors to the energy-starved country, despite an international ban on supplying nuclear technology to the country.
Chashma Nuclear Power Plant  Pakistan.
Chashma Nuclear Power Plant, Pakistan.
The new nuclear plants will employ the latest in a cutting-edge design not used in any other place in the world, each supplying 1,100 megawatts to Pakistan's national energy grid. The two ACP-1000 reactors, costing $5 billion each, are being built next to a much smaller 1970s era reactor on a popular beach just 20 miles from downtown Karachi. a growing city of 20 million people.
In December 2014, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced their ACP-1000 nuclear reactor design had successfully completed a review by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) Generic Reactor Safety Review (GRSR). This was the first time that a Chinese-designed reactor had undergone an IAEA review. The review allows China to sell the fully compliant reactor outside the country.
The move by China and Pakistan to construct a nuclear reactor so close to a large metropolis is bad enough for many people, but even more disconcerting is that the reactor will be built in an area prone to Tsunamis and earthquakes. Abdul Sattar Pirzada is a lawyer in Karachi, and he is trying to get the project halted. He points out that the population of Karachi is one-third the population of the United Kingdom. "If there would be an accident, this would cripple Karachi, and if you cripple Karachi, you cripple Pakistan."
A disaster waiting to happen
Karachi has been described as "a disaster waiting to happen." Being a city by the sea, Karachi is hit by cyclones, and earthquakes are not an uncommon occurrence. High-rise building programs are the norm in this densely populated city, where there are 6,450 people per square mile. However, when it comes to Disaster Management Preparedness, Karachi would get a failing grade.
There are only about 30 fire trucks and a few hundred ambulances in the city. There are only three government hospitals, three burns hospitals and a morgue capable of handling about 200 bodies. In December 1965, a cyclone hit Karachi causing 10,000 casualties. In 1999, a cyclone came ashore near Karachi City, killing 6,200 people. Besides serious flooding, there have also been deadly earthquakes, with at least 18 of them being considered disastrous.
Despite the fears of many Pakistanis and the international community, Khwaja Asif, Pakistan's water, power and defense minister said this: "The risks are there. You cannot discount them, but you prepare for them. We are a nuclear power, so don't underestimate us." Pakistan is also going to double the size of the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant in northern Punjab province.
The U.S. government's stance on the China-Pakistan nuclear deal
The U.S. is miffed over China's plans to help Pakistan, as are a number of other countries. This is because many people think China is violating the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) regulations. China joined the group in 2004, and agreed to not transfer to treaty non-signers any technology that could be used to develop a nuclear weapon. Even though China has been questioned on the deal with Pakistan for several years, China claims the agreement was made in 2003 before China joined the NSG.
While China has been assuring world leaders they are following NSG guidelines and helping Pakistan to meet their energy needs, it seems obvious to some that Beijing is instead trying to increase its regional balance of power and strategic capabilities. It could be the China-Pakistan deal is Pakistan's way of responding to the U.S.-India deal made in 2008 under the Bush administration.
The bottom line over the U.S.-India deal and Pakistan's deal with China is nothing more than Pakistan's response to the increasingly close defense cooperation building between the U.S. and India of late. The U.S. has continually emphasized that Pakistan is not eligible for a nuclear agreement like we gave India, but actually, the deals have a lot of similarities. But besides all these responses to the deal with China, most people, and this includes many Pakistanis say the chance of terrorists stealing one of Pakistan's 90 to 100 nuclear weapons is their greatest fear.