The crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which is ongoing for over three months now, has sparked an energy crisis across the world. Given their high energy dependence on Russia, Japan and Germany have announced to refocus on the nuclear sector to fulfill their domestic energy demands and ward off the uncertainties in the energy supply chain. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that “the nation would use nuclear energy to help reduce its dependence on Russian energy.” Similarly, Germany has also hinted at delaying its nuclear phase-out.
The resurfacing of debate on nuclear energy will become a trend in the coming days and push more countries to positively consider nuclear energy. Pakistan must also grab on this opportunity to emphasize on the nuclear energy sector as it has significantly uplifted the socio-economic growth of Pakistan and continues to do so. From the very beginning, Pakistan’s civilian nuclear energy program has contributed to its socio-economic uplift and there is ample room available for Pakistan to enhance its nuclear power generation capacity to meet growing energy demands. However, due to politically motivated rhetoric and false narratives, Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear program remains outside the global mainstream.
Understanding the matter better
Pakistan’s energy resources consist of fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil), nuclear and renewables (hydropower, wind, solar, biomass). The country has meager oil reserves and the indigenous oil production is barely enough to meet around 22% of domestic oil needs. This necessitates import of crude oil and other oil products in large quantities to meet around 80% of demand. The natural gas reserves of the country are also limited and quickly regressing to increasing demand. Reliance on imported fuel to sustain energy production also affects Pakistan’s forex reserves and takes a toll at the already struggling economy.
In the past decade, coal has been the fuel of choice for electricity generation in Pakistan, with its capacity jumping from almost zero in 2016 to currently touching the 4,670 MWe mark. The current coal based electricity generation configuration is also heavily reliant on imported coal.
The estimated total hydropower potential of Pakistan is around 60,000 MWe, of which nearly 16% is currently exploited. The hydropower potential is concentrated in the northern mountainous region of the country, located far from load centers. The high investment cost for the installation of hydropower plants, development of an electricity transmission network and resettlement of the affected population are some of the reasons for hydropower not being exploited to its full capacity.
Nuclear power contributed 8.4% to the total electricity generation of Pakistan in 2020–21 while its share in the total installed capacity was 6.3%. KANUPP-2 became operational on 18 March 2021, making it the country’s fifth operational nuclear power plant and increasing the cumulative generating capacity to 2,530 MWe.
Another unit of 1100 MWe(KANUPP-3) has also been connected to the grid
The government, realizing the importance of nuclear power in securing electric supply, fuel diversity, environment, technological advancements, job creation, etc., is keen to maintain a significant share of nuclear electricity in the energy mix of Pakistan. ‘Pakistan’s Energy Vision 2030’ was aimed at increasing nuclear power generation to 8800 MWe by 2030 and the current ‘Energy Vision 2050’ seeks to generate 44000 MWe of nuclear energy by 2050.
Furthermore, peaceful uses of nuclear technology in Pakistan have covered many success stories in distinct fields of energy, agriculture, medicine and industry. During 63rd IAEA General Conference in 2019, Pakistan hosted a sideline event named as ‘Atom for Sustainable Development’ to project its resolve for the peaceful application of nuclear technology.
PAEC is progressively working in pursuit of nuclear technology in civil sectors; it has established hospitals and agriculture centers across the country. Pakistan is using nuclear technology in almost all relevant areas that include cancer diagnosis and treatment, agriculture, food preservation, water management and industry; and most importantly for the generation of electricity.
Pakistan is looking forward for a better future with tremendous achievements in the peaceful application of nuclear technology. Particularly in agriculture, the economic boost can provide extensive trading opportunities in the future. Pakistan is already offering and inviting people from around the world to share its expertise on peaceful nuclear applications.
Pakistan’s impeccable history in developing its nuclear energy program is a clear depiction of its national resolve and commitment to the country’s socio-economic development while stringently implementing the requirements and guidelines of international watchdogs. Pakistan should be given equal opportunities to access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Therefore, country-specific discrimination particularly against Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear programs unjustified and politically motivated. Moreover, this discrimination prevents Pakistan from pursuing an environmentally friendly, cheap and reliable source of energy to support the socio-economic uplift of its population of 220 million.
Written by Tanzeela Khalil
The writer is a senior Researcher at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), 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).