PNRA for review of safety of nuke plants at Karachi

Islamabad: Pakistan`s top nuclear regulatory body has advised authorities to review safety aspects of nuclear power plants in Karachi and Chashma in the wake of the accidents at Japan`s Fukushima nuclear plants after the recent earthquake and tsunami.

The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has asked the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to review safety aspects of nuclear power plants, including site studies, safety systems, operators` training, emergency power systems and off-site emergency preparedness plans.

The PNRA said in a statement issued yesterday that it had advised the PAEC to prepare itself for extreme natural events or man-made accidents.

"The PNRA will continue to verify that this preparedness is always maintained," the statement said.

The PNRA will continue to study the accidents at Fukushima nuclear plants and the response of Japanese and other regulatory authorities.

Due to geographical differences between Pakistan and Japan, the likelihood that similar "extreme natural events" might occur in the vicinity of the country`s nuclear plants is quite small, it said.

The PAEC-operated plants met national nuclear regulations and international standards and did not pose any radiation hazard to the public or the environment, the statement said.

The PNRA said it might ask PAEC to take "additional measures". The PNRA is continuously carrying out environmental monitoring across Pakistan to assess any change in the natural radioactivity level.

So far, no change in the level has been observed.

The PNRA is also hosting an international seminar on "nuclear safety and security challenges for the 21st century" in Islamabad during April 21-23.

The event will be attended by professionals working in the nuclear industry in different disciplines, including regulators, operators, designers and manufacturers.

The IAEA has drafted nuclear safety standards and circulated them to all member states, including Pakistan, to seek their views by the end of next month.

The PNRA is learnt to have set up an advisory committee to review the documents and see if the IAEA standards are applicable to developing countries, especially Pakistan.

The fifth review meeting of the parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety is being held in Vienna during April 4-14.

Pakistan`s nuclear facilities were reviewed by the IAEA at the fourth review meeting in 2008. Pakistan signed the Convention on September 20, 1994 and ratified it on September 30, 1997.

In its report to the IAEA, the Pakistan government informed the 2008 review meeting that it was taking appropriate measures to install and operate nuclear plants for generation of electricity and highest priority was accorded to safety.