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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A case for small scale nuclear reactors for economic growth in Pakistan

By providing a reliable source of energy, SMRs can help to attract and retain international and domestic businesses in these zones, which can help to boost economic growth and create jobs for the youth.

Pakistan is currently facing a severe energy crisis, with a significant portion of the population lacking access to reliable electricity. Due to the severe impacts of climate change, Pakistan’s electrical infrastructure is also vulnerable to natural disasters. The country’s energy mix is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, which not only contributes to high levels of air pollution but also increases the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The use of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) could be a potential solution to address Pakistan’s energy crisis while having a low impact on the environment.

Small-scale nuclear reactors, also known as micro-reactors or small modular reactors (SMRs), have the potential to revolutionize the way Pakistan generates and distributes electricity. These compact and scalable units can provide a virtually unlimited and uninterrupted supply of carbon-neutral energy, making them an ideal solution for powering the country’s emerging technology sector, including data centers, computing, and cloud services. One of the main benefits of small-scale nuclear reactors is their ability to generate electricity at a much smaller scale than traditional large-scale nuclear power plants.

Read more: US averted Indo-Pak nuclear war: Pompeo

Understanding SMRs

This means they can be deployed in a variety of settings, including remote locations, and can easily be scaled up or down as energy demands change. This makes them an ideal solution for powering data centers and other large-scale computing operations, which require a consistent and reliable supply of electricity.

Another noteworthy advantage of small-scale nuclear reactors is their ability to provide carbon-neutral energy. Unlike fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases when burned, nuclear power plants do not produce carbon dioxide or other pollutants. This means that by investing in small-scale nuclear reactors, Pakistan could significantly reduce its carbon footprint and play a role in addressing the global climate crisis. In addition to their environmental benefits, small-scale nuclear reactors are also economically attractive. They have a smaller capital cost compared to traditional nuclear power plants and can be built and operated at a lower cost per kilowatt hour. This makes them a cost-effective solution for generating electricity and powering the country’s technology sector, making it an attractive destination model for many developed economies.

For example, the UK’s SMR program aims to develop and deploy advanced SMR technology in the country to help meet its energy needs and reduce its carbon emissions. The launch of the first SMR in the United States is also significant because it represents a step forward in the country’s efforts to develop and deploy advanced nuclear technology. SMRs have the potential to provide a reliable and low-carbon source of electricity, which is important for meeting the country’s energy needs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technology in the United States can also support the growth of the domestic nuclear industry and create jobs.

Read more: India and Pakistan exchange lists of nuclear facilities and prisoners

The way forward

The development of small-scale nuclear reactors in Pakistan can also create a lot of economic value for the country because the small modular reactors (SMRs) have the potential to provide a reliable and uninterrupted supply of carbon-neutral energy, making them an ideal solution for powering special economic and technology zones in Pakistan. These zones are designated areas where economic activity is encouraged through tax incentives, simplified regulations, and other benefits. By providing a reliable source of energy, SMRs can help to attract and retain international and domestic businesses in these zones, which can help to boost economic growth and create jobs for the youth.

It also makes economic sense to shield industrial zones such as textile and large-scale manufacturing from often crippling energy shortages faced by Pakistan over the past 2 decades. These energy shortages have often led to power cuts and power outages that have caused businesses to lose money and jobs. By providing a reliable source of energy, SMRs can help to keep the lights on in these zones and enable businesses to operate more efficiently to meet their export targets.

Pakistan has a long history of nuclear power generation with several nuclear power plants already in operation and more being planned. Investing in small-scale nuclear reactors would be a natural extension of this effort and would position Pakistan as a leader in the development and deployment of this cutting-edge technology. It will not only increase the supply of electricity but also create job opportunities for the youth in the field of nuclear power generation, maintenance, and operation. Furthermore, it will also help to attract more foreign investments in the country as it will demonstrate to global investors that Pakistan is investing in advanced and sustainable technologies, human capital, and sustainability.

 

Shahid Raza is an independent commentator who frequently writes about technology, defense and policy. His work has appeared in several international media platforms. The views expressed in this article are author’s own, and do not represent the policy of any organization.