Spanning over decades, Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear programme became a great success story though it has been subjected to a politically motivated narrative all along. The peaceful application of nuclear energy relates to power generation, agriculture, health, mineral exploration, industry and of course is vital for socio-economic uplift of any country. In addition, the nuclear power projects provide employment opportunities to thousands of individuals and contributing towards socio-economic development of adjoining communities with provision of healthcare and education facilities.
Pakistan started its civilian nuclear power programme in the early 70s with the construction of a 137 MW nuclear power plant in Karachi. Commonly referred to as KANUPP, the plant ranks amongst the pioneers of nuclear power technology in the developing world. The journey that started with KANUPP continued with the addition of four nuclear power plants at the Chashma site that operate high capacity factors and provide electricity to the national grid as one of the most economical and reliable sources of power generation. Two nuclear power plants at Karachi, two at Muzaffargarh and one power plant at Chashma are planned in the very near future.
Needless to mention the hard work and dedication of Pakistani scientists and engineers deserve commendation for reasons that most plants operate after completing their design life with perfect safety. That is not only reflective of solid foundations of a strong and viable nuclear power programme of Pakistan, but also speaks volumes of skill and commitment of the Pakistani work force assigned the onerous task of maintaining the plants.
Nuclear power is a reliable source of energy as it is not sensitive to seasonal variations and plants are characterised as base-load because they have higher capacity factors and can run uninterrupted for years using fuel stored at the site. The nuclear power plants at Chashma are the best performing power stations in the country supplying economical and reliable energy of about 1335 MW to the national grid. These plants are operating at a capacity factor of above 80% which is a great feat given the sensitivity of the nuclear power infrastructure.
Besides being reliable, nuclear power is a cheap source of energy. For instance, the average electricity tariff of the Chashma units is amongst the lowest when compared with fossil fuel plants. It is also a clean source of energy, because nuclear power plants do not emit harmful pollutants, i.e. no greenhouse gases which are largely responsible for climate change. A 1000 MW coal, oil and gas fired power plant annually emits, on average, six, five and three million tons of CO2, respectively, whereas a nuclear power plant of similar capacity shall have zero emission count. It is also pertinent to mention that one kilogram of uranium provides huge energy (100,000 KW) as compared to brown coal, hard coal, oil, and gas which provides 1, 3, 4, 5 KW, respectively.
Since the past several decades, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has been able to maintain an enviable safety record. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has on more than one occasions expressed satisfaction over Pakistan’s nuclear security regime. The international agency works closely with relevant institutions in Pakistan on safe, reliable and sustainable operations of the power plants. There are well-documented emergency plans drawn up in collaboration with national and provincial bodies to deal with any eventuality for all the facilities across Pakistan.
For Pakistan, China not only appreciated Pakistan’s requirement for a peaceful nuclear programme but has also rendered cooperation all along in developing the nuclear power programme. And the plants at Chashma and Karachi site are shining examples of China’s continued support. Pakistan and China should continue to work closely not only in the peaceful nuclear domain but also in other fields of emerging technologies. That is the road to a win-win prosperous future.