By Muhammad Aftab Alam
Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is all set to gift the nation with yet another 1100 megawatts (MWs) of clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity by inaugurating the much-awaited Karachi Nuclear Power Plant Unit-3 (K-3) today. Prime Minister of Pakistan Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif will be the chief guest on this occasion.
PAEC Chairman Dr. Raja Ali Raza Anwar has congratulated Member Power PAEC and his team of diligent scientists, engineers and technicians for taking this giant leap to revolutionize the energy sector of the country.
K-3 is the second Generation-III nuclear power plant (NPP) in Pakistan with generation capacity of 1100 MWs and its addition to the national grid will surely help reduce load shedding especially during summers.
Inauguration of K-3 is a memorable moment for Pakistan and its civil nuclear power program. It is the result of collaborated and continuous efforts of PAEC and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which culminated in a successful nuclear power program for Pakistan. The history of Pakistan’s civil nuclear power program goes back to 1965 when construction of the first Nuclear Power Plant namely KANUPP of 137 MW capacity commenced in Karachi.
Since then, PAEC has constructed four Nuclear Power Plants at Chashma with the assistance of China. These plants have total generation capacity of 1330MW.The first plant of Generation-III technology, Karachi Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 (K-2) went into commercial operation on 21st May, 2021. Both K-2 and K-3 are based on evolutionary design with improvements based on rich experience and extensive Tests and Analyses satisfying National and International Safety Codes, Standards and Practices.
It is to mention here that the groundbreaking of K-3 was performed on November 26, 2013 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. With the addition of this unit, Karachi Nuclear Power Generating Station (KNPGS) alone has started providing 2200 MW of electricity to the national grid and as a whole the nuclear power generation capacity of Pakistan has reached about 3600 MW. In addition to usual project exigencies, COVID-19 pandemic was an unforeseen challenge which was tackled by the brave workforce of PAEC in such a manner that delay in the project’s completion was insignificant.
PAEC is making a steady progress to meet the target set by the government of producing 8,800 MWs of nuclear power by 2030 and 40,000 MWs by the year 2050 for the county. Pakistan’s nuclear power plants, including K-2 and K-3, are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
As far as efficiency of the PAEC operated NPPs is concerned, Pakistan’s Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 made a national record in the country’s history in 2020 by running for a year continuously, becoming the second electricity generation plant of the country to achieve this milestone. Previously, Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit-4, had made the record of running for continuous 365 days, on July 1, 2020.
These records of efficient and safe operations speak volumes of the acumen and hard work of PAEC’s teams of technicians, scientists and engineers. Currently, Chashma Power Plants (C-1 to C-4) are producing electricity at an average tariff of Rs. 11.16/kWh, while operating at above 95% of Capacity Factor. Whereas the total energy production from Nuclear Power Plants in Pakistan had reached 125,147 GWh till March 2022.
PAEC gives highest priority to the Safety and Security of its nuclear installations and that is why it has adopted “Safety First” as a slogan for the nuclear power plants. PAEC is cognisant of the fact that a country requires affordable and reliable energy to prosper. Pakistan’s Nuclear Power Program is an important component of our quest for reliable, cost-effective and clean energy with zero carbon emission. Nuclear Power Program can also contribute significantly in mitigating effects of the climate change.
Furthermore, PAEC power plants also play an important role in the uplift of surrounding areas by improving infrastructure, creating jobs, imparting education and providing modern health facilities. Nearly 75% employees working in Chashma are locals. Similarly, K-2/K-3 projects have given employment to over 2,000 skilled local workers.
The successful coming online of K-3 would not be possible without cooperation from brotherly China especially its China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), China National Nuclear Corporation Overseas Ltd. (CNOS), China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC), and Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of China.
Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) also deserves appreciation for their efforts in ensuring the nuclear safety of these projects. On national level, kind patronage from Government of Pakistan, especially Strategic Plans Division (SPD), Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Power and all relevant government departments from Sindh deserves a standing ovation.
We have to realise that nuclear Power is the future of Pakistan for being second most cost-effective base-load energy source after hydel power. It is environmentally less harmful because of nearly zero emission levels and most importantly, the nuclear fuel is strategically viable for long-term storage as fuel for over one-year operation of nuclear power plants can be stored at the site, unlike furnace oil.
It is therefore a reliable option in terms of securing energy security for a country. It is high time we embrace nuclear power with open arms because in Pakistan’s energy mix, nuclear option deserves a far better and prominent place than it currently occupies. PAEC management also deserves nation’s tribute for its untiring efforts to bring about socio-economic development of the country and successfully pursuing Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) in line with IAEA and the United Nations.