ELECTRICITY GENERATION THROUGH NUCLEAR PLANTS
Using nuclear electricity is a matter of energy security for Pakistan and the country should go on with this mode of electricity generation which would help the economy grow as well as benefiting the consumers at the end of the day.
KHALIL AHMED, Senior Correspondent
Nov 06 - 12, 2006
The economy of Pakistan has grown at an average rate of 7.5 per cent over the last three years and it is expected to grow at over 7 percent during the current fiscal year. This economic growth is of course due to the growth in our manufacturing and services sectors. The economic growth in any country requires increased energy consumption which has been witnessed in our country as well. Because of high growth and investment in industrial sector, a surge in electricity demand is prevalent these days. Off course, extremely hot weather is also one of the factors which leads to higher level of electricity consumption and this is in fact one of the reasons in our country as the bigger chunk of the city population uses lots of electrical appliances i.e. refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.
According to sources, the electricity demand is increasing at around 7 per cent and the production level is lagging behind causing shortage which has been experienced by the industrial sector and the common citizens. The authorities are doing everything possible at the moment to bridge the gap between the consumption and production of power in the country. And for this purpose the concerned authorities have pledged an additional amount of Rs5.1 billion to Wapda for the improvement. Well, it is a welcoming sign, however, such steps should have been taken a couple of years ago to avoid the inevitable. It is an open secret that the generation capacity of electricity has not been as rapid as the consumption capacity. A source quotes that the country's generation capacity today is only 10 per cent more than what it was in 1999 while the demand has been increasing by almost eight per cent a year. The Planning Commission expects the demand for electricity to rise from 15,500MW in 2005 to 21,500MW in 2010, a 38.7 per cent increase over a period of five years. The question is: are we able to generate electricity through indigenous sources in our country? Pakistan is blessed with abundant resources thus the country is able to meet its electricity requirement through its own means. It is viable for us to meet our demands through our own means and if we stop importing electricity from Iran for Balochistan, we could save our foreign exchange. The trade between Pakistan and Iran stands at around US $376 million and Iran benefits through its exports to Pakistan whereas Pakistani exports to Iran amount to $92 million.
Across the world economic growth as well as the warm weather drive the increase in electricity generation. And we are experiencing both the things; an economic growth and of course the warm weather in most parts of our country. This is high time that we think of increasing electricity production as well as export option. Being the nuclear power and rich in natural resources we are very much capable of producing plenty of electricity and can export electricity instead of importing it from our neighbours.
240 MW (6 x 40 MW)
1,000 MW from 10 units of 100 MW each
KALABAGH DAM (Proposed)
Source: Pakistan Water Gateway
The sources for our indigenous electricity comprise hydroelectric power, thermal power (oil and gas), nuclear power and coal. In the western world, electricity is generated through coal-fired plants, hydroelectric facilities, nuclear power, petroleum liquids, natural gas, wind and solar sources. Across the world, there is an increase in electricity generation by hydroelectric facilities, nuclear power, wind and solar sources whereas electricity generation by petroleum liquids and natural gas has declined drastically due to higher prices. Petroleum prices ($ 20 per barrel in 2002) have increased threefold in four years and gas prices are a big issue not only in our country but also across the world, particularly in Europe. If one looks very carefully at the electricity generation in the world, one would come to know that nuclear and wind are the electricity generation sources favoured in the world these days due to economic and environmental reasons.
Pakistan has an excellent opportunity to generate electricity by both wind and nuclear sources. Just taking the example of Sindh, we come to know that there lies a potential of 1000 megawatt wind energy in Thatta. It is believed that one unit electricity production by oil costs over 7 rupees whereas it will be lesser by wind source and sources quote that by water one unit electricity generation in our country could be around 50 paisas. According to a local newspaper wind power generation cost has come down to an average of US cents 2.5 per kwh in developed countries, while in developing countries the cost is a maximum of five cents per unit depending upon site conditions.
Apart from wind, one of the most sought after options for electricity generation in the world is that by nuclear plants. Electricity generation by nuclear plants is on the rise in the world. 16 per cent of the world's electricity production was through nuclear plants in 2003 and at present nuclear plants provide around 20 per cent of the world's electricity. And this trend is picking momentum due to high prices of oil and gas. Pakistan is generating around one percent of its total electricity through nuclear power. France has built 59 plants since the 1970s and is generating over 78 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power. In the United States, nuclear power provides 20% of the electricity the country consumes. Germany with 17 nuclear reactors meets about 32 per cent of its total energy needs by this means. China is producing around 1.6 per cent from nine reactors and China plans to increase nuclear electricity generation up to four per cent in next couple of decades when the country will have around 40 nuclear reactors. The good performance of Finnish nuclear power has yielded benefits to consumers in terms of lower electricity price. Nuclear electricity is cost effective. In Europe, nuclear electricity costs 22.3 euros/mwh, coal based electricity 24.4 euros/mwh and gas based electricity 26.3 euros/mwh.
Securing reliable future sources of energy should be a matter of top priority for any country. It is perceived that nuclear power is a good source against global warming as it does not produce any carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. Pakistan has contributed a lot in terms of the environmental protection as the country is among the top three countries in the world using natural gas-run transport. Using nuclear electricity is a matter of energy security in our country. And the country should go on with the generation of electricity through nuclear means which would help our economy grow and eventually it would help reduce the cost of electricity thus the consumers will benefit at the end of the day and the most significant thing is that our energy dependence on other countries would come down.
When uranium was discovered in 1789, nobody knew about its use but today it is being used for the energy generation. We must avail this opportunity. Uranium use for energy generation would help all 21 uranium-producing countries because of the demand but at the same time we need to know that an increase in the uranium price will cause only a slight increase in nuclear electricity costs, whereas for the natural gas and oil alternatives a rising trend of gas and oil prices cause a major cost increase.
The construction of Chashma-2, a 850 million dollar project, is underway with the help of China and would benefit the nation with electricity by 2011. According to official sources, Pakistan would be producing around 8,800 megawatts of nuclear power in next 25 years, which would be eight percent of the country's total electricity production. It is a fact that the growing economy like Pakistan needs such projects to meet its ever-increasing demands with cost effectiveness.
According to the Australian Uranium Information Centre, a typical 1000MW reactor can provide enough electricity for a modern city of approximately one million people. If we take this into account, it could well be said that if Pakistan, whose nuclear program is for the energy purpose, constructs two more plants, we would easily overcome the electricity crisis.