Pakistan can’t handle Fukushima

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Ten days after the earthquake tsunami, Japan still teetered at the knife-edge of a major nuclear disaster. Four hydrogen explosions reduced three buildings in the 6-reactor Fukushima nuclear complex to smoking ruins. Radioactive plumes triggered a level-5 emergency, and evacuations were ordered up to a 20-kilometre radius. A heroic effort finally prevented a melt-down of spent-fuel rods and averted catastrophic consequences but reactor fires are still burning.


If nothing else works, plans call for pouring thousands of tons of concrete and turning the reactors into permanent nuclear tombs.

On the positive side: the disaster management was excellent. Stoic and disciplined, the Japanese behaved wonderfully well. No looting, no panic, and no anti-government demonstrations followed the explosions. People helped each other, relief teams operated unobstructed, and rescuers had full radiation protection gear. Plant operators risked their lives by working in super-high radiation environments, and engineers showed their grasp of emergency reactor dynamics.

On the negative side: even elaborate earthquake-protection and tsunami-protection measures failed badly. Power sources for emergency cooling pumps were destroyed by the 30-foot high wall of water. In retrospect, storing thousands of spent-fuel rods on the reactor site turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Japan’s near tragedy has reminded the world that situating reactors close to a city can be exceedingly dangerous – even more than storing nuclear bombs within it. While a nuclear reactor cannot explode like a bomb, after one year of operation even a rather small 200MW reactor contains more radioactive cesium, strontium, and iodine than the amounts produced in all the nuclear weapons tests ever conducted.

These devastatingly deadly materials could be released if the containment vessel of a reactor is somehow breached.

As the Japanese continue their struggle to bring Fukushima’s reactors under control, they know they had falsely gambled that nuclear reactors could be safe against earthquakes. Still, there was some logic to this risk-taking: Japan’s energy hungry economy gets about 30per cent of its electricity from its 55 nuclear reactors.

Pakistan has much less reason to risk Karachi, its largest city. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, (KANUPP) located by the seashore, produces little electricity. This Canadian supplied reactor has been in operation since December 1972, but according to IAEA statistics, has been unavailable for power production 70.4 per cent of the time. Even if it had operated as per design (120MW of electrical power), it could supply only six-seven per cent of Karachi’s total electrical power needs – barely enough for Golimar and Lyari.

Nevertheless KANUPP puts the Karachi’s population at risk. Sabotage, terrorist attack, equipment failure, earthquake, or a tsunami could result in large scale radioactive release. As in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the instinctive reaction of the authorities would be to cover up the facts.

But with the breeze mostly directed towards Karachi, the population would surely have to be evacuated. The rich and the fortunate would succeed; the rest would not. Unlike the orderly and disciplined evacuation of post-tsunami Fukushima, all hell would break loose as millions would try to flee. Looters would strip everything bare, roads would be clogged, and vital services would collapse.

Japan’s nuclear disaster should open our eyes. Japan is an advanced industrialised country with superior engineering knowledge and practices. It has a safety culture, Pakistan does not. Whether driving cars or running nuclear plants, Pakistanis are risktakers looking for shortcuts, choosing to put their faith in God rather than precautions.

It would not be surprising if our nuclear plant operators overlook critical safety procedures. Little is known about operating procedures because everything nuclear is kept under wraps, ostensibly for reasons of national security. This also covers up for bad practices.

The shoulder-shrugging nonchalance of Pakistani authorities during the Japan disaster is particularly disturbing. Even as explosions tore through the nuclear complex, the “experts” flatly declared that a Fukushima could never happen in Pakistan. This outlandish claim cost them nothing, of course, because officials and other high-ups in Pakistan have never paid the price for false statements. A real nuclear disaster in Pakistan would see PAEC, PNRA, and our “great scientists” – who provide endless vanilla-flavoured reassurances – running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They would be clueless in dealing with a situation that threatens the lives of millions.

The only thing they would know is how to run away fast.

It is time to down-size Pakistan’s nuclear fission power production.

While remaining a perpetual danger, nuclear technology has not met any reasonable fraction of Pakistan’s energy needs. After nearly half a century of investing in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission – and the billions of dollars spent upon creating its infrastructure – only two per cent of Pakistan’s installed nuclear capacity is nuclear. The actual production is less than even this.

India has not done well either. Only six per cent of Indian electricity is nuclear.

Clearly, nuclear electricity is not cheap or easy.

Contrary to popular public perception, Pakistan’s power reactors also make no contribution to Pakistan’s bombmaking capacity – the fissile material for these is produced elsewhere. Therefore there are multiple reasons why the search for more fission power must be shelved. Until nuclear fusion power becomes available after some decades, Pakistan, like other countries, must rely on a mix of oil, gas, hydro, coal, solar, wind, and other renewables.


The author is a nuclear physicist and holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2011.

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Visit the link and read the comments also/ A new gifht started. lolz

http://tribune.com.pk/story/136020/pakistan-cant-handle-fukushima/

So what you guys hink about it?

Look what one guy asked him:

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Thank you for your usually informative articles on nuclear technology, especially the pitfalls of a core meltdown. However, how do you rate Thorium based nuclear fuel? On March 20th,2011 The Daily Telegraph had an article on China racing ahead with Thorium nuclear power plants, as this offered a safer environment in the event of a disaster. Could not Pakistan take this safer route?? I am attaching the article from which I am quoting and would appreciate your comment. Thanks.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8393984/Safe-nuclear-does-exist-and-China-is-leading-the-way-with-thorium.html

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And look at aother comment in which Dr. Sahabs enemy force arrived: :D

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As I expected just reading the caption that this would be another masterpiece by the great hoodbhoy! the one who belongs to a clan which is well paid and informed to spread disinformation on the security and integrity of both Pakistan and its nuclear program. I was actually looking for something like Hoodbhoy puts it: It is time to down-size Pakistan’s nuclear fission power production. This is clearly what he is paid for. To create a public perception that we are at risk. I can agree to the fact that we have enough coal to make address our energy needs, but the way hoodbhoy puts things is clearly misleading people to get scared and ask for its shutdown. Disasters happen and even Japan couldn’t stand to a 30feet wave of water! so its just bad luck according to your set of belief, we Muslims think its just a Calamity that was destined by Allah upon them.

A TIME WASTING ARTICLE

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Reeks of Dr. Hoodbhoy, the crackpot... :/

Edit: Just had a cursory look and it is indeed that crackpot. :/ :/ :/

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^Is it related to this thread? :/

I think time will tell whether he was a crackpot or a genius who rang the alarm bell.

Will have to wait for earthquake, terroist attack or tsunami. :D

Toba-Astaghfar.

yes cuz he is selling Pakistan and its nuclear to Americans

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Will have to wait for earthquake, terroist attack or tsunami. :D

Toba-Astaghfar.

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But these disaster/situations actually brought some good things with them and that is people gonna get United again

(like 2005 earthquake)

He is right isnt he?

IT's worrying, if he is right.Hopefully we will not have to face such circumstances ever InshaAllah, but it does not mean we should not be prepared for then.

The main article reverts our attention to the right side BUT the solution he has provided is TERRIBLY flawed.."Pakistan MUST down-size its nuclear fission power production"..What a joke!

Two common misconceptions between coal and nuclear power:

1) Coal power has 161 deaths per Terawatt Hour produced compared to 0.04 for Nuclear: http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

2) Coal power plant produces 100x more radiation than a nuclear power plant: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

Also, remember that it took a 9 magnitude earthquake (1000 times more powerful than a 6 magnitude earthquake) and 20ft tsunami to knock out the diesel generators of a 41 year old plant, due to which they could not pump cooling water into the reactors.

Have a look at this radiation chart as well: http://xkcd.com/radiation/

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But these disaster/situations actually brought some good things with them and that is people gonna get United again

(like 2005 earthquake)

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Yay lets have another disaster so we can get united.

But seriously, someone please explain the 2005 situation, I keep hearing about it but did not see it. From what I think happened: Earthquake hits, people volunteer with relief efforts like always, media creates volunteer hype so a few more volunteer who are portrayed as heroes. Everything back to normal in 2 weeks.

I clearly must be missing something, so please tell me what really happened that we as a nation keep boasting about the unity we had in 2005.

I am sure Pakistan can't handle anything ... :/

But do we really have nuclear power plants? If they really exit what king of power they supply and to whom? What actually are they good for?

I am still facing 8 to 10 Hrs of unannounced power outage for the past several years and the power we get is ridiculously expensive. so what gives?

We have to have a real nuclear power plants to expect as disaster. At least we would know that this is a 'real' plant and generate 'this much' of energy and is consumed by 'this much' of population and if it somehow blows, 'this much' population will be affected and so we need to do 'this this and this' to prevent it and 'this this and this' if we can't.

I guess THC levels are very high in his brains. Where did you get that skunk? from MIT?

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Japan’s nuclear disaster should open our eyes. Japan is an advanced industrialized country with superior engineering knowledge and practices. It has a safety culture, Pakistan does not. Whether driving cars or running nuclear plants, Pakistanis are risktakers (correct word would be fools if I may add) looking for shortcuts, choosing to put their faith in God rather than precautions.

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But I have gotta admit also, he speaks the truth right here....

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But these disaster/situations actually brought some good things with them and that is people gonna get United again

(like 2005 earthquake)

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You gotta be kidding us right? :o

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He is right isnt he?
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Yes and no.

Yes, Pakistan can’t handle a disaster like Fukushima.

But nuclear power is the ONLY way forward. Nuclear energy has high start up costs, but the electricity produced is the cheapest (look up France).

Modern nuclear reactors like Molten-Salt ones can even use weaponised nuclear material (like the ones used in our nuclear weapons).

Fukushima had a very old reactor design (Gen I) and was quite dangerous too (Boiling water type). Modern nuclear reactors (Gen III+ and advanced CANDU reactors) are the safest nuclear reactors…what happened in Fukushima can NEVER happen with such reactors because the cooling system doesn’t need active power and with CANDU reactors, you can “poison” them to stop any reaction from occurring.

Personally, I think Dr. Hoodbhoy was not thinking with his head when he wrote the article.

^So do you know which generation of reactor is being used by Pakistan?

in fact he is against nuclear weapons. it is not the first time he always writes against nuclear weapons.

As if we don't have enough problems the author of this article wants us to imagine what might happen if such and such an event took place. Maybe he doesn't see the state of the country where horrific things take place on a daily basis and they are not dealt with at all. What might happen is the least of our problems!

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in fact he is against nuclear weapons. it is not the first time he always writes against nuclear weapons.
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If someone is against nukes, at least that makes sense… but fukushime and pakistan? doesn’t make any sense.