Pakistan’s electricity shortfall is a dire crisis, but is the resolution of that crisis worth jeopardizing the lives of 20 million people? Pakistan is set to build two large nuclear reactors near energy-starved Karachi, with the help of the Chinese government. The harrowing scenes that followed the Chernobyl disaster are still etched in people’s memories; empty classrooms, abandoned towns, and the Fukishima disaster happened only a few years ago. It is inevitable that alarm bells start to ring when Pakistan builds two reactors less than 30 kilometres away from one of the world’s most populated metropolis.

There are several concerns, the foremost being the safety standards of the ACP-1000 type nuclear reactors being built; this indigenous Chinese design is not operational anywhere else in the world. Yet most objections based on this are little more than speculation, a fact the International Atomic Energy Commission’s Generic Reactor Safety Review (GRSR) endorses. The recently completed survey has cleared the reactor for construction, assuaging fears of a design flaw. Yet most industrial accidents are not caused by design flaw, but by human negligence and ill intent, both of which can be found in Karachi aplenty. The Taliban have shown an aptitude for mounting sophisticated attacks on sensitive installations, hijacking a naval vessel, infiltrating a naval airbase and later, the international airport. An attack, even a botched attack, could threaten the lives of Karachi’s residents, and the following shutdown of Karachi will shut down the rest of the country. The government’s desire to utilise the support structure of the existing, smaller power plant is understandable, as is the need for Karachi to have a power source in its proximity, but the worst case scenario – a distant possibility, for sure – is so catastrophic, it would be wise to relocate the power plant. The government will face large expenditure; relocation of the site, building infrastructure and support buildings, but the end result would be a disaster proof set-up, making sure that the plant will stop being an enticing target for extremists.