Pakistan: Nuclear Safety & Security Efforts
Tuesday, December 30, 2014 – Pakistan had acquired nuclear technology for civilian use by participating in the US Atoms for Peace initiative in 1955.Since then no nuclear related accident has occurred in Pakistan. Transformed regional environment and enhanced security dilemma after 1971 war with India, specifically, after New Delhi testing its nuclear capability in 1974, left no choice for Pakistan but to take a nuclear path.
As mentioned before Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely security driven which had commenced in the wake of war with India in 1971 resulting in Pakistan losing its eastern wing guard nuclear explosion by India in 1974. International law, gives every state the right of self defense according to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This implies that security is the top priority and inherent right of every state.
Pakistan has had four decade long experience of safe operation of nuclear power plants. The focus has been on inculcating a culture of safety and security at all levels. In regard to its nuclear security, Pakistan has established a robust nuclear safety and security regime compatible with international standards and best practices. In this endeavor, Pakistan has accomplished the following four steps:
Established and maintained a well-defined command and control system which includes the National Command Authority, the top decision making body under the Prime Minister’s stewardship authorized under the Prime Minister to take policy decisions, the Strategic Plans Division, and the Strategic Force Commands that exercises control over all other aspects of policy, procurement, operations and nuclear security.
Created a rigorous regulatory regime covering all matters related to nuclear safety and security. In 2004 a statutory body, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), was created to oversee all safety and security systems and mechanisms.
Put in place a comprehensive export control regime with laws on par with the standards followed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australia group. Committed itself to international cooperation, consistent with national policies and interests as well as its international obligations.
Nuclear security being the national responsibility, Pakistan accords the highest priority to it in all forms and manifestation. Nuclear security related activities include establishment of Centers of Excellence for training, which conduct specialized courses including physical protection and personnel reliability, inspection and monitoring of nuclear power plants, periodic revisiting of safety parameters, emergency preparedness and response, operators’ training, nuclear security action plan (NSAP), radiation response mechanisms, periodic revision of national export control list by the Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) and combating illicit trafficking of nuclear material through border control mechanisms. On this last point, Pakistan is linked to the IAEA illicit trafficking database. Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security is an internationally recognized institution promoting and maintaining of high standards of training and culture of excellence in the field of nuclear security.
Regarding much criticized matter of safety of the new nuclear power plants proposed to be built near Karachi. In fact, which is a matter of national importance, given the verity that Karachi has Pakistan’s largest urban population of nearly 20 million and has the principal port of country.
In the context of new nuclear power plants and the Fukushima disaster dreadful incident left important lessons demanding fail safe preventive mechanisms. It includes the incorporation of multiple barriers in the design and at many levels of safety assurance throughout the design, construction and operational phases.
Post-Fukushima, nuclear power plants are being equipped to cope with the most unlikely scenarios of total blackout and non-functionality of several of the engineered safety features built in the plant. It is learnt that these safety upgrades are already being implemented in the present operating plants and would be inbuilt features of the new Karachi plants. Studies were carried out for the Karachi sites to ensure that the plant systems to be constructed would survive the biggest earthquake and tsunami that can be expected in the area.
The efforts of Pakistan nuclear safety and security in organizational learning can be summarized in two terms ‘anticipation’ and ‘resilience’. Anticipation meant efforts to predict and prevent potential dangers from arising before they have occurred and resilience meant efforts to cope with dangers once they become manifest. Though Pakistan was a late entrant to the Nuclear Club, it is quite confident, vigilant about safety and security of its nuclear program.
— The writer is Researcher at Center for International Strategic Studies