The twenty-first century is the era of technological innovation, which is critical to every nation’s progress, peace, and security. One of the important aspects of this technological innovation is the advancement in nuclear technology. The majority of people associate nuclear technology with nuclear weapons because we are living in a Nuclear Age where; the peaceful use of nuclear technology was a by-product of the destructive use of nuclear weapons.
Contemporarily, the constructive uses of nuclear science are visible in applied sciences, food, agriculture, biotechnology, human health, energy and industry. The peaceful application of nuclear technology is a critical component of socioeconomic progress. Civil nuclear technology has revolutionized every part of life and has shown to be a reliable source of national security, economic welfare and self-reliance in energy production.
Pakistan’s policymaker took these aspects into account and in 1956, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established as a statutory body to promote the employment of nuclear technology in the fields of energy, agriculture, medicine and industry. Today PAEC has numerous institutes and facilities to render benefits of peaceful application of nuclear technology.
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One of the most efficient and reliable sources of energy is nuclear power. Nuclear is a clean and environment-friendly source of energy and the world is increasing its reliance on this form of power generation. Energy resources are imperative for the economic growth of any country. In this sense, the generation of nuclear power is one of the finest ways to upkeep a country’s energy security vis-à-vis the fight against global climate change. Nuclear energy makes sense when Pakistan has experience in operating nuclear technology, spanning over five decades and it has qualified manpower and professionals.
There are six operating nuclear power plants in Pakistan and one under construction. To facilitate any future expansion of the civilian nuclear power programme to increase the reliance on nuclear technology for power generation, Pakistan has sufficient infrastructure and technical manpower. According to Pakistan’s Energy Security Plan (2005), PAEC is committed to increase the nuclear power capacity to 8,800 MWe by 2030 which could reach to 40,000 MWe by 2050.
PAEC has established diverse and specialised engineering departments to fulfil the Commission’s technological needs which includes Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC-3), National Center for Non-Destructive Testing (NCNDT) and Pakistan Welding Institute (PWI).
These setups are highly qualified and well-versed along with dedicated and professional personnel to provide technical support in the domains of Nuclear Power Engineering, Civil Works, and Infrastructure. Through these setups, Pakistan is steadily progressing toward self-reliance in many aspects of the peaceful application of nuclear technology.
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Agriculture & Biotechnology
Nuclear technology is important in ensuring that the world has access to a safe, secure, and high-quality food supply. Scientists and farmers are constantly exploring new methods to use nuclear technology to produce crops and raise livestock – technologies that have been demonstrated to be safe and productive.
PAEC has pioneered the use of nuclear technology to boost agricultural output by developing new crop types, insect control methods, plant nutrition and water management, animal health and productivity, and food decontamination and preservation. In accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eliminating hunger and malnutrition, PAEC is utilizing irradiation techniques to enhance food quality and quantity, and improve shelf life of food related products.
Nuclear techniques are even more versatile and may handle a wider range of health concerns, from illness prevention to treatment. Nuclear technology, for example, can assist detect animal infections before they spread to people. Pakistan has also achieved significant advances in medicine by utilising nuclear technology. Nuclear technology has played an important role in the development of innovative cancer treatment techniques.
The application of nuclear technology in the health sector is a prime objective of PAEC. Patients from all over the country obtain state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment services for free or at discounted prices through PAEC’s 18 medical centers. PAEC Hospitals also participate in a nationwide cancer prevention and awareness initiatives.
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Research and Development (R&D)
Innovation is a key factor and without this factor major areas of any economy would have not existed. We know that countries that do not innovate they slip into stagnation. Research and development (R&D) is a best tool through which innovation can be accomplished. R&D in nuclear science has brought innovation in the application of nuclear technology for the benefit and progress of society.
Therefore, a large number of R&D Organizations for peaceful application of nuclear technology have been established in Pakistan. In this regard, PAEC has established institute like Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science & Technology (PINSTECH) and facilities – Pakistan Research Reactor – I (PARR-I) and Pakistan Research Reactor – II (PARR-II) – to carry out research related to nuclear technology.
Other major institutes which are performing research in nuclear physics are Nuclear Institute of Agriculture (NIA), Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB), Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and National Institute of Lasers and Optronics (NILOP). In NIA research is being carried out in the fields of plant breeding and genetics, plant protection, soil science and plant physiology. NIAB has facilities and expertise for utilization of nuclear and other modern techniques in agriculture and biology to solve the problems of crop production and conservation. NIBGE is a focal point of modern biotechnology in Pakistan. NILOP was planned to provide a facility for research and development in lasers and laser-based technology.
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The notion of nuclear as only a cause of human destruction is wrong. Nuclear technology has immense potential to provide several advantages to society. Pakistan has proved its dedication to utilising nuclear technology for socioeconomic growth and advancement, for which it is underappreciated.
Pakistan is a pioneer developing country in using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Pakistan’s sustained nuclear safety and security record urges world assistance in the peaceful application of nuclear technology.
Hasan Ehtisham is Senior Research Officer at the Center for International Strategic Studies (Islamabad). The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space (GVS News)