ISLAMABAD - The government under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is committed to enhancing energy generation through nuclear resources and new sites for installation of nuclear energy plants are being explored, according to Ansar Pervaiz, Chairman Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).

“PAEC is set to generate 8800 megawatts electricity through nuclear resources till 2021. Two plants are to be established in Karachi and another site in Muzaffargarh has been explored and work is under way on exploring other sites suitable for the purpose,” the chairman PAEC further said in an exclusive interview with The Nation on Monday.

He said that the word ‘nuclear’ made the people frightened most of the time but atomic energy plants were not hazardous or dangerous for the people contrary to the image being spread by some quarters. Atomic power plant must not be confused with atom bomb in terms of hazards and energy generation through atomic sources is as safe as from any other source. Moreover it is cheaper and sustainable solution to the energy needs of the country, he added.

Around 700 megawatts energy is being produced through nuclear resources presently that is costing national grid not more than Rs 7 per unit and this price also covers all the costs involved in energy generation and also the loan repayments to China those were taken to build C1 and C2.

About the role of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) role, he said, “Pakistan has not signed Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and it is not bound to get its plants inspected by the said agency but PAEC invites them wilfully and gets its plants inspected just to have better feedback and improve its safety standards.” But they never asked about the nuclear bombs of Pakistan as that does not come under their jurisdiction, he said.

For the installation of nuclear energy plants the contracts are awarded on turnkey basis to China but PAEC has bought back around 25 per cent of work from them. After the completion of the power plants, PAEC will itself run these plants without assistance of anybody.

Presently atomic fuel for the plants is being provided by China but Pakistan has the capability to produce fuel itself if needed, the chairman said.

About the financial resources involved in building nuclear plants, Ansar said, “About 85 per cent of the total cost is funded by China in shape of loans while the remaining amount is provided by the government of Pakistan but once the plants become operational, the PAEC will sell the electricity to national grid and pay back the loans.”

Talking about the safety of the people and geological studies of the areas where K2 and K3 are supposed to be built, Ansar said that these plants were at a safe distance from the population. Geological studies show that there is no evidence that an earthquake of intensity 6 on Richter scale had ever jolted the area during the last 10,000 years. He said that in technical terms the maximum earthquake effect can be 0.2 G in an area but K2 and K3 are designed to survive 0.3G earthquake effect.

He said that some quarters kept on raising the questions what would happen if an earthquake of over 9 intensity on Richter scale jolted the area. The answer is that if Karachi witnesses a 9.2 intensity earthquake on Richter scale then nuclear plant would have to do nothing to destroy the city as at that level no building in the city will remain safe.He further said that such an earthquake was out of question as per the studies.

Even in the case of nuclear accidents witnessed in some other parts of the world including Fukushima in Japan and Chernobyl incident, there are factual reports that not more than 100 people died due to these incidents but some people are presenting exaggerated and fake figures, he added.

Replying a question about the interference of armed forces in the policymaking or decision-making of PAEC, he said, “PAEC is under the control of National Command Authority that makes its policies after proper input from the organisation and armed forces have neither direct role in the organisation nor they try to impose anything on it.”