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Pakistan’s necessity for nuclear electricity

Short Research Paper

While the popularity of nuclear power took a major hit, worldwide, in the aftermath of Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear fiasco in 2011. Pendulum has swung back and even in Japan, due to intermittent energy shortages, heavy reliance on imported energy, and impending default of international commitments on Carbon emissions; therefore, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a push to adopt a plan that could reopen closed nuclear power plants and pave the way for the construction of new ones. Percentage of nuclear generated electricity in respective national energy mix of some of the success stories are: France 74.8; Belgium 51.0; Ukraine 46.2; Sweden 38.1; Switzerland 35.9; Czech Republic 35.3; Finland 32.6; South Korea 30.4; Japan 30 before Fukushima; Spain 20.5, United States 19; United Kingdom 18.1; Russia 17.8; Germany16.1 percent; Canada 15.3 percent. Most of these countries owe their energy (especially electricity) independence to nuclear power generation. In some of these countries, nuclear power generation has touched and or has crossed its optimum level of generation share in their respective national energy mix; thus in such counties, nuclear power generation capacity is either stagnant or in slight decline.

But in Asia, the trend is otherwise. Russia has begun building the world’s first floating nuclear power plant; the first of seven such plants. By 2025, Southeast Asian nations would have a total of 29 nuclear power plants; of these, Indonesia will have 4, Malaysia 4, Thailand 5 and Vietnam 16. India is pursuing an ambitious nuclear energy programme, China plans to switch over from coal to nuclear fuel as the single largest source of power generation. UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are some aspiring counties; Iran’s keenness for nuclear power generation is well known. China and South Korea are emerging as big exporters of nuclear power plants at affordable prices.  Presently, 437 nuclear power reactors are in operation in 31 countries. Since cost of nuclear fuel is a small part of the cost of production, nuclear power plants are usually considered base load stations. Nuclear plants operate 24/7. Nuclear power plants typically have high capital costs, but low direct fuel costs, with the costs of fuel extraction, processing, use and spent fuel storage internalized costs. The fuel cost of operations for a nuclear plant is much smaller than the fuel cost for operating oil, coal or gas plants. Generation IV reactors, under R&D, are being designed to completely close the nuclear fuel cycle, with the prospect that all spent nuclear fuel/nuclear waste could potentially be recycled.

Alongside Karachi’s coast, construction of two additional 1,100 MW generation III AP 1000 nuclear power plants (KANUPP II & III) is under way. Earlier this month, experts form International Atomic Energy (IAEA) completed the key Generic Reactor Safety Review (GRSR) of these nuclear reactors. PAEC, will operate these plants under IAEA safeguards. A legal challenge by some of Karachi’s overhyped and misled citizens about public safety has been dismissed. Now the vested interests campaigning against nuclear power generation in Pakistan have taken their battle to media. By twisting the facts and fictionalizing a purely technical matter this lobby, spearheaded by Dr. Pevez Hoodbhoy and, Dr. AH Nayyar, is creating unnecessary alarms. Their campaign is largely based on creating fears regarding the possibility of a Tsunami or an earth quake hitting these power plants. A specter regarding necessity of evacuation of entire population of Karachi is being floated to trigger an agitated public reaction against these power generation facilitates. To put the matter in perspective, it is necessary to take a look at the underlying reasons of Pakistan’s power crisis and the global power generation trends.

Pakistan’s energy crisis has two dimensions: supply demand imbalance and affordability. Current installed capacity is sufficient to take summer peak load of the country. Devil lies in differential between generation cost and the cost that consumer can afford— commonly known as circular debt. Therefore, under the circumstance, addition of any mean of electricity must first pass the affordability test; the second test is 24/7 output. Hydel power generation is the cheapest way; but is seasonal and intricately linked to usage of water for agriculture. As agrarian consumption of water has the priority, it is Indus River System Authority (IRSA) and not National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) that calls the shots as to how much electricity could be given to national grid; exception to this restrictive regime are run of the river hydel projects–like upcoming Dasu hydropower project.  Gas, oil and coal are other means of producing electricity. These are available 24/7 but how much of these fuels could be inducted for power generation depends on their cost, exploitability, logistics and environmental impact. Wind and solar are dependent on climatic cycles and daylight respectively. Hydel power generation is the cheapest, followed by domestic gas, nuclear, domestic coal, imported gas, and imported coal and oil. Globally, Wind and Solar power sectors are attracting lot of attention and investment; however, their commercialization at competitive prices is still a couple of years away. Their other weak areas are heavy infrastructure and efficient storage systems. Per unit cost of Wind and Solar electricity is much higher than national grid averages. With construction of large dams politicized and domestic gas supply dwindling, nuclear electricity emerges as one of the top viable options for Pakistan.

In many countries, plants are often located on the coast, in order to provide a ready source of cooling water for the essential service water system. nuclear-power-station-460x250Plant designs and associated infrastructure take into account the risk of flooding and tsunamis. Design of plants located in seismically active zones also cater for the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis. Japan, India, China and the USA are among the countries that operate plants in earthquake-prone regions. From safety point of view a lot has been accomplished since Fukushima. Passively safe plants are available to build; and other reactors that are designed to be nearly fool-proof are being pursued. AP1000 power plants, under construction in Karachi, use passive nuclear safety cooling systems. Many of new designs specifically attempt to make fission reactors cleaner, safer and/or less of a risk to nuclear proliferation. Generation III reactors are at least 17% more fuel efficient, and have lower capital costs, while Generation IV reactors promise 10000-30000% greater fuel efficiency and elimination of nuclear waste.

Over the last 40 years of its life cycle, KANUPP I, which is the oldest reactor of its kind in the world, continues to operate in Karachi safely with IAEA certification. Due to growing energy demand, Pakistan plans to increase the share of nuclear energy to 8,800 Mega Watt electrical (MWe) by 2030. This would constitute 5.41 per cent of the national energy mix. Other sources of energy like hydel, coal, renewable, oil and gas, would still have the major percentage. When completed in November 2019, K-II&III would add 2,200MW to Pakistan’s electric power, at a very cheap rate. Average price of power generated by Chashma-3 and 4 would be around Rs 9.59 per unit, much less than the price of electricity generated by thermal plants running on gas or oil. Due to economy of scales, new KANUPP category plants would produce cheaper electricity than the Chashma class power plants.

Therefore, Pakistan should look towards developing nuclear energy as its mainstay electricity generation system. Nuclear electricity remains one of the cheapest, most efficient, and carbon-friendly forms of energy generation. Energy superpowers like the United States, Russia, and Canada have made nuclear power lucrative, not just through cheap energy, but through licensing their technology to developing countries looking for a new energy source. For that reason, nuclear power will be integral to the world energy mix for decades.

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Was Emergency in India akin to Hitler’s Regime?

Special Pick from India, Ram Puniyani: On the eve of 43rd anniversary of the Emergency, which was imposed on the country in 1975, BJP has come out strongly condemning the event, has issued half page advertisement and Modi said that it was imposed to save the power of a family. There are claims that BJP’s parent organization RSS and its political predecessors valiantly fought against emergency. Surprisingly many streams of Indian politics, like CPI (M), shades of socialists, and sections of dissident Congress streams who fought against Emergency did not make any noise about their role. While Congress itself has not overtly criticized the act of its leader Indira Gandhi, it needs to be recalled that Mrs. Gandhi had regretted the excesses during this period in a speech in Yavatmal in 1978. Apart from Jaitly and BJP leaders there are many others also who compare the authoritarian regime and its excesses with what happened during Hitler’s fascist regime. It’s true that during this period there was a serious violation of democratic freedoms. The similarity with Hitler’s fascist regime ends here. The main mechanism of Hitler’s regime was to instigate emotions, ntensifying divisiveness by activating the storm troopers and targeting against the racial minority; the Jews. Other characteristics of his regime were to promote the interests of big business houses and suppress the rights of working class in particular. It projected the golden past and also promoted ultra nationalism and implemented muscular foreign policy leading the soured relations with neighbors. People like Einstein left the country. The targeting of racial minorities was the central and most conspicuous part of the policy. The excesses which took place during emergency were not targeting any minority. It’s true that the pavement dwellers suffered a lot, demolitions and the compulsory vasectomy of poor sections affected Muslims as well, but it was not targeted against Muslim community in any way. How can one say that Emergency which was authoritarianism was not fascism in any way? In fascist methods what is central to the undermining of democracy is to operate through the mechanism of mobilization of foot soldiers, whipping up mass hysteria and giving prominence to emotive issues. Let’s remember Indira Gandhi herself had lifted the Emergency and called for elections in a democratic way, elections in which she suffered a massive defeat. In Germany fascist regime destroyed Germany itself. While a lot is being said about emergency, what was the role of RSS during this period? The claims that RSS was a central force to fight against this regime are a cock and bull story. TV Rajeswar, who served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim after his retirement from service, in his book, ‘India: The Crucial Years” [Harper Collins] tells us “Not only they (RSS) were supportive of this [Emergency], they wanted to establish contact apart from Mrs. Gandhi, with Sanjay Gandhi also”. Rajeswar in an interview with Karan Thapar disclosed that Deoras “quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Deoras was keen to meet Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay. But Mrs. Gandhi refused.”As a matter of fact the executioners of emergency excesses found good favor with BJP as it was formed after Jana Sangh component leaving the Janata Party. One recalls the emergency time slogan, “Aapatkal ke tin dalal: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal” (three executioners of Emergency: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal). Later BJP gave ticket to Vidya Charan Shukla, and allied with Bansilal to form the Government in Haryana. Sanjay Gandhi’s wife Maneka was taken in to BJP and became minister without ever condemning the excesses committed during that period. As a matter of fact what is happening today is much more repressive though there is no official emergency. Many have labeled it as undeclared emergency. Nayantara Sahgal, who was a strong critic of Emergency, has stated very aptly that “…we have an undeclared Emergency; there is no doubt about that. We have seen a huge, massive attack on the freedom of expression.” The observation is that there are killings of innocent, helpless Indians killed because they did not fit into the RSS’s view of India. Every dissent is labeled as anti-National. She continues “Writers like Gauri Lankesh have been killed. And there has been no justice for the families of the wage earners who have lost their lives in this fashion. In fact they are now being called the accused. So we have a horrendous situation, a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency.” Similarly we know that today the dangers to civic liberties and democratic rights is through the ideologically indoctrinated foot soldiers, who have been called fringe elements, but as such they are part of a clear division of labor, working against Indian Constitution and for Hindu Nation. The prevalence of violence against religious minorities, the intimidation, the lynching in the name of Holy cow, beef, love jihad, ghar wapasi has become a sort of New Normal of present regime. It not only goes beyond the authoritarian regime but borders on the divisive politics which is out to relegate the religious minorities to second class status in the country. While the top rulers keep quiet in cases of serious violations, the ground level vigilantes have a field day in furthering the agenda which is outcome of RSS ideology. Lately even the use of tricolor to instigate violence as witnessed in Kasgaonj is further stifling our democracy. We need to distinguish between the authoritarian regime of Emergency where the machinery of state was used to suppress democratic rights with fascist regimes which are guided by narrow nationalism and target the minorities while pushing forward Hindu nationalism and bringing in divisions in society on sectarian grounds. Democracy is stifled in both cases, but in narrow nationalism the very concept of citizenship is denied to the sections o society on the grounds of their religion or race. And this is the crucial marker of sectarian nationalism.

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