May 12 - 18, 2008

Last month, President Pervez Musharraf during his six-day visit to China, held wide-ranging talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao and made significant headway on a host of issues during the several rounds of talks with the Chinese leaders. The two countries agreed to enhance co-operation in a number of key areas with focus on bringing more Chinese investment in energy sector. The visiting Pakistani President and the Chinese President Hu Jintao vowed to enhance co-operation in defence, energy and trade. Beijing has agreed to provide assistance to cope with the fast-growing energy demand of Pakistan. The two leaders also discussed co-operation in nuclear energy.

Today, nuclear power has become more viable economically and a reliable source of electricity generation. The cost of production from nuclear plant is relatively cheaper. South Korea relies on atomic power for about 40 per cent of its electricity. It already has 24 atomic power plants and it intends to build two more atomic power plants by 2014. From environmental point of view, nuclear power production is potentially dangerous to human beings and environment and nuclear waste disposal is another serious problem associated with the use of nuclear technology for power production. Ironically, US the world's biggest polluter has been opposing the use of nuclear option for energizing economic activities in the third world countries. Fairly speaking, if nuclear option is acceptable for the developed countries, then it should be acceptable for the developing states like Pakistan.

China-Pakistan nuclear energy co-operation is presently focused on the Chashma nuclear power plant in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab. China has agreed to negotiate setting up of the Chashma-3 and 4 power projects after the completion of Chashma -2 power plant, according to the Pakistani defense minister. Pakistan has chosen the nuclear power option in a big way to meet its pressing energy needs with the help of China which has already assisted Pakistan in developing facilities for nuclear power generation. The country's power demand is currently increasing by 11 to 14 per cent a year and the gap between demand and supply is widening, which is detrimental to its growing economy. It is presently facing a burgeoning power gap of about 2,500 to 3,000MW.

Last December, President Musharraf performed the Containment Dome Placement ceremony at the 325-megawatt capacity Chashma-2 plant, 280 kilometers southwest of Islamabad. He had claimed that Pakistan's nuclear safety regulatory infrastructure is effective, functional and respected by the world bodies. The Chashma-II power plant is likely to be completed by the end of 2010 and it is the result of cooperation between the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). The Dome Placement marked the transfer of the project from civil works stage to full swing equipment installation, according to Vice-President of CNNC Yu Jian Feng. In May 2004, Beijing had committed to build second plant at the Chashma Nuclear Facility. The overall contractor of the project is China Zhongyuan Engineering Company.

China has been assisting Pakistan in developing facilities for nuclear power generation since 1986 when the two countries had signed a comprehensive agreement for nuclear cooperation which envisaged supply of power plants and cooperation in the research and development of commercial and research reactors. Under an agreement signed in 1990, China had helped Pakistan in the construction of 300MW reactor at Chashma in Punjab province which went into operation in 1998. The Chashma Nuclear Power Plant was designed and built in collaboration with China, which is delivering full power of 300 MW to the national grid since September 2000. It is located near Chashma Barrage on the left bank of River Indus. It has a pressurized water reactor (PWR) and is under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. In April 2005, Pakistan and China reached an agreement whereby Beijing committed to provide two 300-megawatts-electric-capacity nuclear power reactors to Pakistan in the next ten years. In the same year, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had clarified during his India visit in New Delhi that Beijing's nuclear cooperation with Pakistan was fully compliant with international anti-proliferation norms and dedicated to peaceful purposes.

During President Musharraf's visit to China in June 2006, both the countries had tentatively decided through consultation that China would help Pakistan complete the aforesaid nuclear projects in the next 10 years and Pakistan had also hoped China would again help build a 600 MW nuclear power station. After Musharraf's visit, it was speculated in the media that two countries had reached close to a new deal for six additional nuclear reactors. In December 2006, the much-awaited agreement on Chinese assistance to build nuclear reactors in Pakistan could not be signed during President Hu's visit to Islamabad. Though Beijing had agreed to provide two more nuclear power plants, worth about $1.2 billion, to help meet Pakistan's growing energy needs, yet the issue was magnified in the media and China succumbed to the pressure of the West or the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Ultimately Beijing shelved the project and abstained from indulging in any controversy. President Hu had however pledged that his country would continue to view its relations with Pakistan from a "strategic and long-term perspective" and expressed his willingness to work together with Pakistan to raise the strategic partnership to new levels. Though Chinese nuclear exports have mainly been motivated by economic considerations, yet in case of Pakistan they raised serious concerns about China's commitment to nuclear nonproliferation in the world's political circles. The United States has already refused to carry out nuclear energy cooperation with Pakistan. On the other hand, Washington has signed a nuclear cooperation pact with India and same was denied to Islamabad. Ultimately, Pakistan began to look to Beijing for assistance. Some analysts are of the view that Islamabad has expedited its efforts for acquiring 1000mw nuclear power plants from China after recently concluded US-India nuclear deal.

Islamabad has also decided to build a US$1.192 billion Pakistan Nuclear Power Fuel Complex (PNPFC) to attain the capability to manufacture pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and nuclear power plants (NPPs). The facility will be developed by PAEC and it will have the capacity to manufacture the full cycle of nuclear fuel and power plants. The country has already approved setting up of Nuclear Fuel Enrichment Plant (NFEP) at a cost of Rs 13.708 billion, including Rs 8.136 billion plant so that necessary material could be made available easily for its on-going nuclear activities.

The PAEC has been assigned the task for setting up of six nuclear power plants to generate 8,800 megawatts of electricity by 2030, in accordance with the country's energy security plan. The PAEC has selected sites for the six power projects and their feasibility reports have already been prepared at a cost of Rs150 million. The proposed nuclear power units are to be located at Qadirabad-Balloki Link Canal near Qadirabad Headworks, Dera Ghazi Khan Canal near Taunsa Barrage, Taunsa-Punjnad Canal near Multan, Nara Canal near Sukkur, Pat Feeder Canal near Guddu, and River Kabul near Naushehra.