Writer’s Misperceptions About Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety
While showing their double standard, the US, India and some western countries use one pretext or the other in targeting the nuclear programme of the unfavorable small countries in order to obtain their selfish interests. As Pakistan is the only declared nuclear country in the Islamic World, hence, it has become special target of some western top officials and media persons who continue their propaganda against Pakistan’s nuclear programme. They have especially hired the services of media anchors and writers who work on their payroll and have been creating doubts about the safety and security of Pakistan’s atomic weapons and nuclear plants.
In this respect, in his article, “Let’s go nuclear—safely”, published in the daily Dawn on March 14, 2015, Pervez Hoodbhoy has tacitly shown his misperceptions about Pakistan’s nuclear safety by following the propaganda of external enemies, as his contradictions, baseless arguments and data prove.
Enumerating the benefits of solar energy for Pakistan over nuclear energy, Pervez ill-conceived that solar energy is being preferred “by majorities in the US, Europe, and Japan including Denmark and India who think nuclear reactors are unsafe even with additional safety features. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than the Chernobyl one, has left people deeply wary of official promises…the complexity of reactors has sharply increased capital and running costs…solar energy is cheapest than the power generated by reactors.”
Under the cover of solar energy, Pervez Hoodbhoy has not only challenged the well-protected nuclear installations of Pakistan, but also implicitly target Pak-China strategic relationship, while trying to incite the people of Karachi against the federation. In this context, he writes, “How would Pakistan deal with massive radioactive release after deliberate sabotage, a terrorist attack or operator error? The 120,000 of Fukushima could flee, the 20 million of Karachi cannot…the construction of two additional 1,100 MW nuclear power plants is under way. Of untested design, they are China’s first export of reactors…a loan offer of $6.8 billion…the nuclear plants are slyly linked with national security.”
However, it is brought to the notice of Pervez that despite the use of solar energy, the US and Japan including many western countries like Denmark prefer to generate electricity through nuclear plants, which is the safest form of energy today, and also with sufficient safeguards built-in and the most advanced nuclear reactor technology—Pakistan government has assured that no threat to human life or ecology will take place.
Although India is heavily investing in solar power projects, yet there are also giant nuclear power plants like Jaitapur with electricity capacity of 9600 MW.
Besides, the nuclear energy produces electricity without enhancing global warming, while solar energy is intercepted by Earth from the sun—it includes all those fuels which have already been used and their pollution is rapidly making the Earth warmer. In this connection, US-led most developed countries are worried about the warming of Earth, and have held various conferences to resolve this problem.
Moreover, solar power requires large area of land and in case of Pakistan; it can be used for agriculture and forests. In future, Pakistan will have to depend on coal, hydro and nuclear power to meet its energy needs. Comparatively, nuclear energy has more advantages, as it is cheaper than coal or hydropower. Furthermore, taking lesson from the nuclear incident of Chernobyl, the sites of nuclear power plants are selected after a careful process which engages International Atomic Agency (IAEA) for maintaining best safety and security practices. The sites of Pakistan’s upcoming power plants have been approved after consideration of huge data which includes seismic, tsunami-related, meteorological, and deep underground features. Like the earlier plants in Pakistan, this data has been incorporated into the designs of the power plants.
It is surprising that the writer who is a doctorate in physics has distorted facts. For example, Fukushima incident did not kill or affected any person with radiations in Japan, because people were evacuated from the concerned areas.
It is mentionable that Pakistan does not have enough money for wind and solar energy, and we need a quick solution of power crisis, otherwise, we will be far more behind in race of prosperity. For this purpose, Pak China joint ventures particularly nuclear reactors are well-thought projects and should not be maligned.
Pervez Hoodbhoy’s attention is also invited toward rumors and ground realties. In 2009 when the heavily-armed Taliban entered Swat, Dir and Buner, US high officials and their media had exaggerated the ‘Talibinisation’ of whole Pakistan, while showing concerns about Pakistan’s atomic arms. In that regard, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warned that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. But, Pakistan’s armed forces ejected the Taliban insurgents out of these areas by breaking their backbone.
When insurgents had attacked on Pakistan’s Naval Airbase in Karachi on May 23, 2011, US-led some western countries including India and Israel exploited the situation through disinformation about the security of Pak nukes. Similarly, terrorists’ assault on Kamra Base was successfully foiled by the personnel of Pakistan Air Force, but, a baseless report, published in the New York Times on the same day indicated that suspected militants attacked a major Pakistani Air Force base where some of the country’s nuclear weapons were considered to be stored in the early hours of the militants’ attack. The ex-US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta also stated on the same day, “There is a danger of nuclear weapons of Pakistan, falling into hands of terrorists.”
During American President Barack Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, this year, the US and India announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology. In this respect, both the countries had signed a deal in 2008, but, Indian access to civilian nuclear technology was held up for six years amid concerns over the liability for any nuclear accident or Indian poor nuclear safety.
India’s eagerness for entry into Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and other regimes is aimed at enhancing Defence-related capacities rather than meeting its energy requirements. With American support, New Delhi which has obtained the NSG waiver has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with France, Russia, United Kingdom etc.
Indian past record proves various kinds of security and safety lapses regarding various nuclear plants and the related sensitive materials including events of leakage, nuclear theft, smuggling and killing.
In this context, in November, 2009, more than 90 Indian workers suffered radiation due to contamination of drinking water at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka. On July 27, 1991, a similar event occurred at the heavy water plant run by the Department of Atomic Energy at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan. Nuclear radiation had affected and injured many laborers there.
In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seized eight Kg. of nuclear material from three engineers in Chennai, which was stolen from an atomic research center.
On November 7, 2000, IAEA disclosed that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA had revealed that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts.
On January 26, 2003, CNN pointed out that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipments entailing titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps.
In December 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.
In June 2009, India’s nuclear scientist, Lokanathan Mahalingam missed from the scenario and after a couple of days; his dead body was recovered from the Kali River. Indian police concocted a story that Mahalingam had committed suicide by jumping into the river. It is a big joke to hide some real facts behind his death because wisdom proves that if an educated person decides to commit suicide, he will definitely adopt a soft way to eliminate his life. Afterwards, Dr. Haleema Saadia said that death of the scientist was a conspiracy.
Nevertheless, by setting aside the Indian irresponsible record of security lapses and poor safety, especially, US is likely to supply India civil nuclear technology. In fact, instead of Pakistan which depends upon minimum deterrence in wake of Indian aggressive designs, US-led hostile countries must better have concerns about the safety of India’s nuclear weapons and plants.
Despite the repeated assurances of Islamabad that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and various plants are well-protected and are under tight security arrangements, a deliberate propaganda campaign against their safety keeps on going by the external enemies.
In these terms, Pervez Hoodbhoy who has tacitly supported the agenda of some foreign powers has only misguided the readers through his misperceptions about Pakistan’s nuclear safety.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations