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Security Issues Related to Pakistan's Future Nuclear Power Program

This chapter deals with the prospects for the expansion of the current Pakistani nuclear power program, and the dangers to national safety and security such expansion entails due to rapid expansion, and the potential military or terrorist attacks against future nuclear power plants. In terms of organization, this chapter is divided into two parts. The first part, including the front two sections, summarizes the current status of the Pakistani nuclear power program, and the prospects for its expansion. The second part deals with the nuclear safety risks that the expansion of the Pakistani nuclear power program might entail, and the security risks related to military or terrorist attacks against nuclear power stations. A detailed conclusions section completes the presentation.

It is concluded here that Pakistan has maintained its currently small nuclear power program in a safe mode, though plant performance records are mediocre, given the limited integration of Pakistani plants into the global nuclear industry. That Pakistan provides many of the requisite plant maintenance and upgrade capabilities from its own resources attests to the potential for improved operations if Pakistan’s nonproliferation position could be resolved. Future expansion of the Pakistani program on the scale projected by the government depends on changes 278 in Pakistan’s nonproliferation stance that might be related to resolution of the proposed U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement. A similar agreement between Pakistan and China, if possible, might allow significant expansion of the Pakistani nuclear program. It is further concluded here that rapid expansion of the installed nuclear capacity might strain the regulatory agencies‘ capability to supervise safe construction and operation of the prospective new nuclear power stations. Fastrate capacity growth might strain Pakistan’s ability to train adequate numbers of station operating staffs, support infrastructure, and regulatory manpower. The combined effects of the above could lead to safety problems related to plant operations and supervision by poorly trained personnel with potentially severe consequences.

We make the point here that the overall security situation in Pakistan is unstable, with large numbers of terrorist groups allowed to operate within the country, with an armed insurrection ongoing in Balochistan, and with the government’s loss of control of several provinces to the Taliban and other Islamic and Arabic terror organizations. This generally unstable security situation is not conducive to stable long-term expansion of nuclear power capacity. An immediate problem may be the difficulty of security screening of all prospective nuclear stations and infrastructure employees, with the distinct possibility of terror supporters gaining access to power stations and providing insider support to putative terrorist attacks. Large multiunit nuclear power stations that likely will be constructed if the nuclear expansion plan is implemented would become vulnerable to terrorist attacks or attempted takeovers all supported by potential inside collaborators. Terrorist attacks against nuclear power stations could 279 be motivated by three factors:

  1. the desire to obtain radioactive or fissile materials for the construction of radioactivity dispersion devices or nuclear weapons;
  2. the intent to create significant damage to the station, nearby population, the environment, and the country as a whole as revenge for some government actions inimical to terrorist interests; or
  3. the desire to force the government to accede to some terrorists demands and modify its policies accordingly.

In similar fashion, military action against nuclear power stations can not be ruled out, motivated possibly by the intent to change or reverse government decisions and policies to respond to military demands. Since the military already controls security at all nuclear facilities in Pakistan, military takeover of future nuclear power stations is that much simplified. We conclude here that installing large multiunit nuclear power stations is in the economic interest of any country, like Pakistan, projecting large scale nuclear capacity growth. However, given the less than stable situation in Pakistan such stations are vulnerable to future security threats against the government. Both economic and security trade-offs should be evaluated when considering large scale nuclear capacity expansion in Pakistan’s situation.

This book, completed just before Pakistani President Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in November 2007, reflects research that the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center commissioned over the last 2 years. It tries to characterize specific nuclear problems that the ruling Pakistani government faces with the aim of establishing a base line set of challenges for remedial action. Its point of departure is to consider what nuclear challenges Pakistan will face if moderate forces remain in control of the government and no hot war breaks out against India.

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