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China-Pakistan civilian nuclear plans likely to increase substantially

Pakistan faces severe electricity shortage leading to economic and social difficulties. It faces an energy shortfall of 3,668MW per day. Expanding the nuclear energy industry is one way Pakistan can meet its electricity shortfall. Nuclear power makes a small contribution to total energy production and requirements, supplying only 5 TWh (4.4 percent of the electricity in 2015). Total installed capacity is about 20 GWe. Only about 12 GWe is operable.

Pakistan nuclear power program is with only 1040MW capacity. Its movement is expected to increase substantially with Chinese help. With the use of indigenous uranium our nuclear weapons capabilities has arisen to a satisfactory level.

Pakistan is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is largely excluded from trade in nuclear plant or materials, which hinders its development of civil nuclear energy. Fortunately China is hopeful about civil nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.

In 2005 the Energy Security Plan was adopted by the government, calling for a huge increase in generating capacity to more than 160 GWe by 2030.

Power shortages and load shedding is common. In July 2013 the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved 3.5 GWe of new power projects totaling Rs1,303 billion.

Nuclear Power Plants in Pakistan in 2014 produced 105 TWh of electricity, 42 TWh of this from oil, 26 from natural gas and 31 from hydro. Consumption in 2014 was about 84 billion kWh after 17 percent transmission losses. There was no import or export.

CHINA’S CONTRIBUTION

There are designed to reduce the high reliance on oil and to reduce power costs. This depends only on Chinese support.

Electricity infrastructure is an important part of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects. About $33 billion of the CPEC total is for energy infrastructure, primarily 10 GWe of generating capacity by 2020, mostly coal-fired.

Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is responsible for all nuclear energy and research applications in the country. The PAEC is reported to have two divisions which are responsible for nuclear power programs: Nuclear Power Generation (NUPG) and Nuclear Power Projects (NUPP).

PAEC’s first nuclear power reactor is a small 137 MWe (125 MWe net) Canadian pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR), which started up in 1971 and which is under international safeguards. It is operated at reduced power, and is under review by PAEC because of its age.

The second unit is Chashma 1 in Punjab province in the north, a 325 MWe (300 MWe net) two-loop pressurised water reactor (PWR) supplied by China’s CNNC under safeguards.

The main part of the plant was designed by Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute (SNERDI), based on Qinshan. It started up in May 2000 and is also known as CHASNUPP. Designed life span is 40 years.

A safeguards agreement with IAEA was signed in 2006 and grid connection was in March 2011, with commercial operation in May. Upgrades have added 5 MWe since (to 330 MWe gross).

At KANUPP a 4800 m3/day MED desalination plant was commissioned in 2012, though in 2014 it was reported as 1600 m3/day. There were tentative plans for China to build two 1000 MWe PWR units at Karachi as KANUPP 2&3.

China in 2007 deferred development of its CNP-1000 type which would have been the only one of that size able to be exported.

Pakistan then turned its attention to building smaller units with higher local content.

A further agreement for China’s help with the project was signed in October 2008, and given prominence as a counter to the US-India agreement shortly preceding it.

In March 2009 China’s SNERDI announced that it was preceding with design of Chashma 3&4, with China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp (CZEC).

In March 2010 Pakistan announced that it had agreed the terms for Chashma 3&4, whereby China would provide 82 percent of the total US$ 1.912 billion financing as three 20-year low-interest loans. It would also provide fuel for the reactors’ lifetime nominally of 40 years. The main construction contract was signed in June 2010.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has raised some questions about China’s supply of Chasma 3&4.

GOVERNMENT GOALS

PAEC says that Pakistan has agreed with CNNC to provide lifetime fuel supply for the reactors, this being specified as 60 years.

The Prime Minister referred to the generation target of 8800MW of nuclear energy by 2030 and urged the Commission to accept the challenge of producing more than the target and play its full role in the development of the country. He said there has been marked reduction in load shedding during the last three years and as pledged, the menace of load shedding would be over in 2018. He said generation of additional 2,200MW of electricity through K-II and K-III would contribute towards this effort.

The Prime Minister urged PAEC to take all possible measures to strengthen safety of existing and future power plants as per international standards. He expressed satisfaction that Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority has an effective mechanism to ensure safety of all plants.

Chairman Atomic Energy Commission Muhammad Naeem said the Commission has been given a target of 8,800MW of nuclear power till 2030. He said to achieve this target, planning for establishment of more plants have been done and places identified and research work in this regard is going on.

China had built two 300MW reactors at Chasma in Punjab followed by two 320MW units at the same place. It is currently building two 1100MW reactors in Karachi at a cost of $6.5 billion, saying they are aimed at easing power problems in Pakistan.

A Chinese official has confirmed that China is involved in as many as six nuclear power projects in Pakistan and is likely to export more reactors to the country.

“China’s civil nuclear power support to Pakistan is meant to help the time-tested friend to overcome its energy crisis,” said Chinese scholar in an article published in China Daily recently.

Chinese companies joined Pakistani side to build a nuclear plant at Chashma in 1991. By 2000, the first reactor at Chashma was ready to generate electricity. Five years later, Chinese companies began building Chashma 2.

China and Pakistan both assert that the proposed sale is not only in line with the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) rules, but it is also transparent and peaceful in nature. It has already been clarified officially that the “China-Pakistan cooperation on civilian nuclear energy is consistent with the two countries’ respective international obligations, and is for peaceful purposes and subject to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguard and supervision”.

Chashma-III Power Plant is no doubt yet another milestone in the Pak-China joint collaborations. This was the third project after successful operation of Chashma-I and Chashma-II projects, which were fully operational and producing 325 and 340 MW respectively. It has assisted in building six nuclear reactors in Pakistan with a total installed capacity of 3.4 million kilowatts. Two nuclear plants to add 680MW of power to national grid.

With the help of China, Pakistan had already constructed two nuclear power plants, C-1 and C-2, which were currently operational and generating much needed electricity thus helping to reduce outages. With the induction of two more nuclear power plants, its share will cross 1,000MW barrier in months ahead.

Pakistan intends to generate 8,080 MW through civil nuclear energy by 2030 so the number of nuclear power plants will be increased in months and years ahead by adhering to international standards of safeguards.

The chairman PAEC said that two Karachi Nuclear Power Plants having a capacity of 1,100MW each were currently under construction which would also become operational soon.

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