Islamabad - A senior official of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) says that chances of release of radioactive material into environment from upcoming K-2 and K-3 nuclear power plants in Karachi were very low.

Speaking at a seminar on ‘Overview of the Nuclear Safety Regime in Pakistan’ at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) - an Islamabad-based think tank, Director General (Corporate) PNRA Zaheer Ayub Baig said, “The reactors are planned to have a double containment wall due to which there are very little chances of release of radioactive material into the environment.”

Moreover, he said the area surrounding the K-2/K-3 site has low population concentration because of absence of under-ground water. The size of population, he noted, is within the requirements for nuclear power plants. Baig said that Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) had already reached an agreement for not allowing any development activity in the immediate vicinity of the K-2/K-3 sites.

The PNRA official said that there were no internationally prescribed sizes of the ‘exclusion and low population density zones’ around nuclear power plants. The size of these zones, he contended, is mostly determined on the basis of expected release in case of emergencies and accidents, which in case of K-2 and K-3 is very low.

“There are both active and passive security measures in case of K-2 and K-3,” Baig insisted while allaying safety concerns about the 2200MW project, whose ground breaking ceremony was performed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in November 2013.

Baig further said that the design of the proposed reactors could withstand an earthquake of 9.0 on Richter scale even though the maximum expected earthquake magnitude in the area is 8.0 on Richter scale. An official of PAEC, speaking at the event, said PAEC had vast knowledge about the site because it had been operating Karachi Nuclear Power Plant there since 1972. Moreover, the PAEC official said that PAEC was fully convinced about the safety of the ACP-1000 design reactors.

President SVI Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, while chairing the session, said, “Nuclear security and safety regimes have become highly significant variables in the contemporary debate on nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.”

He regretted that in the prevailing political scenario, it made little difference as to who was right or wrong but what mattered more was who was allied with or against whom. He continued that despite Pakistan’s history of maintaining one of the highest standards of nuclear safety and security, it remained in the eye of the storm in the US and Western press on the issue of the security of its nuclear assets.