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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Nuclear power: clean, cheap, and sustainable source of energy for Pakistan

The great power of the atom is not limited to warfare. The nuclear technology can supply a clean, cheap and sustainable source of energy for Pakistan

The great power of the atom is not limited to warfare. The nuclear technology can supply a clean, cheap, and sustainable source of energy to meet the energy needs of the burgeoning world economy.

Read more: Pakistan reiterates support to nuclear test ban treaty at UN

Pakistan has demonstrated a commitment to utilizing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Historically speaking, Pakistan was one of the first countries to cooperate in Eisenhower’s 1953 ‘Atoms for Peace’ program.

“Atoms for Peace”

It was then, that Pakistan embarked upon the ambitious plan of exploring the potential of nuclear technology for generating energy and sent several scientists and engineers for training abroad, within the ambit of the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program. During the same period, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was created, in 1956, with the mandate to plan and manage nuclear power production.

PAEC imported a 5 MW research reactor from the US which became operational in 1965. At the same time, there were initiatives to build and develop local capacity in terms of nuclear energy production, for instance, the Pakistan Institute of Science and Technology (PINSTECH) was established, in 1965, to build a local pool of skill set for research and management of nuclear plants.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Power Plants

The work on the pioneer project for nuclear energy, Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP), commenced in 1966, and by 1968, the scientists and engineers returned to Pakistan and contributed to its construction. The plant became fully operational in 1971 and marked Pakistan’s entry into the field of nuclear energy.

The construction of the second power plant, CHASNUPP-1, began in 1993, in Chashma, with the help of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), and the plant became fully operational in 2000. The third plant, CHASNUPP-2, of similar design and capacity, became operational in 2011 and by 2016, CHASNUPP-3 commenced operations as well. CHASNUPP-4, with similar features, became operational in 2017.

Pakistan has created an example through 50 years of unwavering cooperation with IAEA. All of Pakistan’s Nuclear Power Plants are under IAEA safeguards and they are completely in line with the latter’s safety guidelines

There are five operational Nuclear Power Plants in Pakistan as of now, with four in Chashma, with 1330 MW capacity, and one in Karachi with 137 MW capacity. Two plants, KANUPP-2 and KANUPP-3 are under construction in Karachi. Remarkably, the KANUPP-1 is now supported by locally manufactured spare parts and fuel.

 National Power Policy (2013): Mitigation of Pakistan’s economic problems

Pakistan has limited reserves of fossil fuel incapable of supporting its burgeoning energy needs. It must import most of the coal, oil, and gas needed to run the power plants, putting a strain on its weak economy. Hydropower is also not a practical option, as hydropower potential is limited to the northern areas remote from the economic hubs and the city centers, creating complications for transmission.

Therefore, Pakistan has aimed to diversify its energy mix in order to include more energy from nuclear sources. The National Power Policy 2013, issued by the government, prescribes the goals of eliminating load shedding and developing cheap electricity production. The Ministry of Energy has laid out the goal to achieve 8800 MW nuclear power capacity by 2030 and complete energy security by 2050, through enhancing the nuclear power capacity of the country to 40,000 MW.

Read more: China Three Gorges: World’s largest hydropower company is symbol of Pak-China friendship

Apart from planning and constructing Nuclear Power Plants, Pakistan has an outstanding record in managing them and ensuring their safety. Within the oversight of PAEC, KANUPP-1 is consistently maintained and upgraded and managed to outlive its estimated life.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Pakistan has engaged the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the construction and running of all its Nuclear Power Plants, and all of them are under the latter’s safeguards. IAEA was created in 1957, almost a year after the creation of PAEC, and was responsible for disseminating nuclear technology for peaceful uses while ensuring that it is not diverted towards military purposes. Pakistan has created an example through 50 years of unwavering cooperation with IAEA. All of Pakistan’s Nuclear Power Plants are under IAEA safeguards and they are completely in line with the latter’s safety guidelines.

Moreover, Pakistan keeps IAEA informed regarding all crucial activities falling under the operational scope of these plants. IAEA consistently monitors and inspects all nuclear facilities to ensure the safety and security of nuclear and radioactive materials and to make certain that they are safely disposed of.

Read more: Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s quest for civil nuclear energy

To provide a regulatory framework to the nuclear program, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was created in 2001. It is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the nuclear infrastructure taking a clue from the IAEA guidelines. Moreover, after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear incident, PNRA came up with a Fukushima Response Action Plan as an emergency response strategy in case of a nuclear accident.

PNRA also initiated a National Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP), in collaboration with IAEA, which revolves around the safety of radioactive materials and emergency response actions. IAEA has been fully engaged with the operations of Nuclear Power Plants, sending Review Teams which have assisted in enhancing safety in the functioning of these plants.

Pakistan’s applaudable efforts in nuclear technology

Pakistan has a record of maintaining safe nuclear operations for fifty years now and is reputed for it internationally. The fact that Pakistan has served on the Board of Governors in IAEA twenty-one times now, and has also chaired it thrice, demonstrates that Pakistan has the credentials of a responsible nuclear state and is acknowledged for it internationally.

Read more: Pakistan’s K2 nuclear reactor using Chinese technology completes thermal testing

Pakistan is mindful of the great power of nuclear technology to support its state and economy through facilitating cheap and clean power generation. It has a long history of exploring the potential of the atom for peaceful uses and has succeeded in utilizing it for complementing its energy mix.

Moreover, Pakistan has established itself as a responsible nuclear state locally and internationally, has maintained an impeccable record of safely managing and administering its nuclear infrastructure, and has been accepted by the IAEA as one of its distinguished members.

Tooba Ghaffar is working as a Research Associate at the Center for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad. The author can be accessed at toobaghaffar@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.