Nuclear energy is indispensable in the growing needs of energy around the world. There are 440 nuclear power plants operating in 31 countries. They produce 39,000 MWe of electricity that constitute around 11% of the world’s electricity generation. Nuclear energy is reliable, clean and environment-friendly.
Pakistan’s quest for nuclear energy is driven by two factors; one, the country has a vast experience and expertise in the application of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and two, the country faces growing energy needs as it is becoming a hub of economic activity. This activity is generated mainly due to regional connectivity in view of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Despite Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, it has also established nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Pakistan has been producing 1090 MWe of energy through nuclear technology from Karachi Nuclear  Power  Plant  (KANUPP),  Chashma  Nuclear  Power  Plant  Unit-1, Unit-2 and Unit-3 (C-1, C-2 and C-3) at Chashma (Mianwali) as of 2016. Chashma 4 has started producing another 340 MW of energy from early September 2017, totaling 1430 MWe of nuclear energy into the national grid. These five nuclear reactors are under International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safeguards. For that purpose, Pakistan has item-specific safeguards arrangements with the agency for civilian nuclear purposes. Most of the country’s nuclear energy set-up was established with Chinese help, though KANUPP was mainly established by Canada.
In 2014, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) announced that the country planned to produce 8,900 MWe energy through nuclear power by 2030. The Agency chalked out its long-term planning in 2015 which envisaged nuclear power generation up to 40,000 MWe under its Nuclear Energy Vision 2050. The country has given this ambitious plan for catering unprecedented growing energy demands due to population increase and establishing of new industries in the country. Below is a small brief of Pakistan’s past, present, and future energy projects.
Pakistan’s first nuclear power reactor, Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) was a small 137 MWe (125 MWe net) Canadian pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR), established in 1971. Chashma 1 and Chashma 2 with about 300 MW each were established at Chashma, near Mianwali in 2000 and 2011, respectively. Chashma nuclear power plants are known as CHASHNUPP. They were established by Chinese help. Construction on Chashma 3 and Chashma 4 was started in 2011. The inauguration ceremony of the operationalization of 340 MWe Chasma 3 was held in December 2016. The country’s fifth power plant, Chashma 4 with a capacity of producing 340 MWe has been recently inaugurated by Pakistan’s Premier, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on September 8, 2017.
Planning Commission of Pakistan announced in 2013 to develop two reactors with the generation capacity of 1100 MW each with Chinese help near Karachi to be named as K-2 and K-3, costing around $ 9.595 billion. Groundbreaking of the construction of the projects held in November 2013 however, Sindh High Court ruling stopped the project owing to environmental concerns. In August 2015, the project was re-launched on K-2. Work on K-3 was launched in May 2016. The reactors are planned to be operational by 2021 and 2022, respectively. Though, these two power plants would be Pakistan’s largest nuclear energy projects; yet, some sections of civil society fear of nuclear accidents like that of Fukushima in Japan. For that matter, highest safety measures should have been adopted to meet such eventuality.
For research and development, the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science & Technology (PINSTECH) at Nilore, near Islamabad was established in the 1960s. The institute has two small-scale research reactors, known as a pool-type research reactor, PARR-1 & PARR-2. A 5 MW PARR-1 was established there with the US help under Atoms for Peace project. It was then upgraded from 5 to 10 MW and converted to use low enriched fuel. PARR-2 is an indigenous 30 kW miniature neutron source reactor (MNSR) using high enriched fuel since 1974. They are under IAEA safeguards.
Pakistan has been paying a heavy price for AQ Khan Controversy as the country has been denied access to nuclear trade and technology. Since then, it has tried to adopt comprehensive nuclear safety and security measures including passing of Export Control Law in 2004 in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1540. Moreover, the country has actively engaged in Nuclear Security Summit process. Its institutional and legal frameworks help contain the proliferation/transfer of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and other sensitive technology to other countries.
It is need of the hour that the nuclear exporting states should come forward to cooperate with Pakistan to attain its ambitious nuclear energy goals. Pakistan has applied for NSG membership in 2016 that is still undecided. If NSG grants membership to Pakistan, it will open avenues of nuclear energy cooperation. It will not only beneficial for Pakistan but also mutually benefit other states in two ways; first, other states can also get benefit from Pakistan’s experience of using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and second, the world community can get benefit economically as it is becoming a hub of economic activity and regional connectivity.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Syed Adnan Athar is enrolled as PhD candidate with Department of Defence and Strategic Studies (DSS), Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad. He is also serving there as Research & Teaching Assistant since 2013 (currently on study leave). Previously, he was working at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI), Islamabad.