Karachi, Oct 20: A seven-hour emergency was declared at a key nuclear power plant in Pakistani city of Karachi after heavy water leaked from a feeder pipe of the reactor but no one was affected by radiation, officials said today.
The emergency was declared at Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) at midnight on Tuesday after the leak in the primary heat transport system of the plant at Hawke's Bay was detected.
The emergency at the plant built in 1971 with the cooperation of Canada continued till 7 am on Wednesday, when the situation was brought under control, a media report said.
The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission announced today that a “minor heavy water leakage” occurred during a “maintenance job” at KANUPP in the early hours of October 19. According to standard procedure, a “station emergency” or an emergency limited to the plant was declared to put staff on alert and to summon additional support staff.
“The leakage at the plant was under control with no injury and no one was affected by radiation,” PAEC said in a statement.
There was no injury to any worker and radiation exposure of all workers “remained within permissible limits”. The leakage was brought under control by following routine procedures and the “emergency was terminated”. There was no leakage outside the reactor containment and “most of the lost heavy water has since been recovered”, the statement said.
Earlier, plant spokesman Tariq Rashid said it “was a leak but there was no radiation or damage to the reactor”. “There is no need for any alarm as the situation at the plant is under control but the leakage may delay the reopening of the plant and making it operational again,” Rashid said.
Pakistan, a nuclear armed nation, has two commercial nuclear plants, the other one is located in the Punjab province.
KANUPP has been under “safe shutdown” since October 5 for routine maintenance.
A media report said the incident occurred when a channel for carrying heavy water for cooling was opened for a check after the temperature increased following a decline in the flow of water.
The channel was restored to normal operations after repairs.
However, when the pump was started again, heavy water leaked from the feeder pipe. Staff in protective gear isolated the damaged part by Wednesday morning.
The effects of the leakage were “wiped off” and the state of emergency was withdrawn later the same morning. A similar incident of leakage of heavy water had occurred at KANUPP about 20 years ago.
The plant initially generated 137 MW of electricity. The life of the plant was said to be 30 years but Pakistani engineers prolonged its life till 2015.
The plant, located 24 km to the west of Karachi, currently supplies 80 MW to the city's power utility but was closed down for repairs earlier this month.
Western nations, particularly the United States and the European bloc, have from time to time expressed concerns over the security and safety of the existing nuclear power plants in Pakistan.