KARACHI, Pakistan — World leaders have fretted for years that terrorists may try to steal one of Pakistan’s nuclear bombs and detonate it in a foreign country. But some Karachi residents say the real nuclear nightmare is unfolding here in Pakistan’s largest and most volatile city.
On the edge of Karachi, on an earthquake-prone seafront vulnerable to tsunamis and not far from where al-Qaeda militants nearly hijacked a Pakistan navy vessel last fall, China is supplying two large nuclear reactors for energy-starved Pakistan.
The new plants, utilizing a cutting-edge design not yet in use anywhere in the world, will each supply 1,100 megawatts to Pakistan’s national energy grid. The reactors are being built next to a much smaller 1970s-era reactor located on a popular beach where fishermen still make wooden boats by hand.
But the new ACP-1000 reactors will also stand less than 20 miles from downtown Karachi, a dense and rapidly growing metropolis of about 20 million residents.
Now, in a rare public challenge to the Islamabad government’s nuclear ambitions, some Pakistanis are pushing back. Of all places to locate a reactor, they argue, who could possibly make a case for this one?