Pakistan’s Long Term Nuclear Energy Program
Dr. Syed Javaid Khurshid, Senior Research Fellow
Centre of International Strategic Studies, Islamabad
Energy plays a vital role in the development of a country. A country’s progress
is also estimated by its energy demand and consumption. At present Pakistan has
an installed generation capacity of about 37,500MW. The minimum total demand is
about 24,000MW whereas the maximum total demand in summers is enhanced to nearly
29,000MW. The country’s transmission and distribution capacity,however, is only
approximately 22,000MW. This results in hours of electricity outrages in the hot
summer months. Besides that, over 50 million people are not connected to the
national grid and don’t have access to electricity. An unrelated but major
problem that has plagued Pakistan’s power sector besides distribution capacity
is the cost of electricity production.
It is crucial for energy production in a country to be affordable, reliable and
continuous besides being without emitting greenhouse gases to mitigate climate
change. There are many sources to produce energy. If we examine Pakistan's
energy mix, we can have a clear idea of where the action is needed to obtain
cheaper, continuous, and green energy. At present,the energy mix of Pakistan is
64% fossil (gas-38%, oil-16%, coal-10%), 26% hydropower, 6% nuclear, and 4%
renewable(solar, wind). In Pakistan, fossil fuel consumption is
disproportionallyhigh. Furthermore, the use of imported gas and oil has enhanced
the cost of electricity production many folds. Besides the costof electric power
generation plantsoperating on fossil fuel emit a lot of greenhouse gases.
During the Covid-19 pandemic it has also been realized by many international
agencies such as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Energy
Agency IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) that the energy source of a country
hasto be reliable and continuous. During the pandemic or any other similar
situation, the uninterrupted supply of energy is also an essential factor for
the security of a country. The most importantargumentthat supports this view is
that those countries which have enough fuel for more than a year are in a better
position to deal with the effects of a pandemic. If a pandemic situation
develops in the future, there can be a hindrance for countries like Pakistan in
importing gas and oil for electricity generation. Pakistan is importing about
42% of gas and oil for electricity generation and thus dependent on foreign
sources. A logical solution for the safety and security and mitigation of
climate change is nuclear power. It has many advantages over other sources of
energy. It is a mature and reliable technology. It ensures acontinuous supply of
energy and also cost-effective besides having stringent safety standards and
being environmentally friendly. So far large nuclear-fueled power plants were
installed in different countriesbut now many other feasible options of producing
nuclear power such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Mini Nuclear Reactors (MNRs)
are being developed. These have many advantages over their larger predecessors.
They have a low initial cost,are factory produced, no refuelingneeded and easily
transportable. It is expected that the first commercial SMR will start operating
in 2021 in a few developed countries, which are working on this technology.
Nuclear power is one of the best and cleanest energy sources, produced by
disintegrating atomic nuclei in a reactorin a controlled manner. The first
commercial nuclear power generation started in August 1956 at Calder Hall,
United Kingdom by a 50MW reactor. Thenuclear power generation picked up very
quickly due to its advantages against all other forms of energy production. If
we compare it with other energy sources, it has a clear advantage such as 1 kg
of Uranium-235 produces the energy equivalent to 3000 kg of coal and 1 kg of
coal produces about 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide, it means that 1 kg of uranium
saves the world from 8400 tons of carbon dioxide. Wind energyproduction usesa
large area of land for installation. It uses Sulphur hexafluoride gas for
coating turbines, which stays for 1300 years in the atmosphere, solar energy is
a good renewable energy source but there is a disadvantage in manufacturing
solar panels. They use heavy metals, hydrofluoric acid and nitrogen trifluoride.
The nitrogen trifluoride is 1700 times more toxic than carbon dioxideand stays
for 100 years in the atmosphere. Another problem is after completing their life
span of 12-15 yearssolar panels need to be disposed of. It is estimated that
about 10,000 tonsof solar panel waste by 2021,will grow to 800,000 tons by 2040.
As solar panels consist of heavy metals, their disposal, will cause huge
Pakistan is a country with a population of 2.3 billion has been striving for
energy sufficiencysince its inception.The country needs a continuous increase in
electricity production to meet the growing demand. To meet the future projected
demand of 42,000MW by 2025, mitigation of greenhouse gases and assured
continuous and reliable supply, nuclear power generation seems to be the best
available technology for the present.
Pakistani scientists are very experienced, technically high skilled and have
more than 50 years of safe running, handling and managing nuclear power
plantsand disposing of radioactive waste of nuclear reactors. At present 5
Nuclear Power Reactors (NPRs) are working in Pakistan producing about 2335 MW of
energy afterincluding K-2 which will be officially inaugurated on the occasion
of 28th May 2021. The other 2 NPRs K-3 and C-5 are in the different stages of
construction, K-3 also of 1100 MW will start operating by the end of October
2021, whereas, 4 other NPRs are indifferent planning stages.
The Covid-19 scenario has also proved that it is very important that countries
should have enough fuel to keep uninterrupted running their power plants for
atleast one year by indigenous fuel. The nuclear power plants have proved that
they are essential to maintain the energy supply and thus a very important
pillar for the energy security of the country. The greatest advantage of nuclear
power plants is that they can provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity for
more than a year. With the advent of SMR technology, the running time will also
increase and refueling the SMRs every year would not be needed.
Pakistan has to achieve its targets of producing nuclear powerof about 16% of
the energy mix, which is3,350MW by 2021, 8,800MW by 2030 and 40,000 MW by 2048.
This nuclear power production plan is a part of the Energy Security Plan 2005
given by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and approved by the Government of
Pakistan.So far, Pakistan is on its way to achieving the targets set to obtain
nuclear energy for the country.