PAEC takes a giant leap to revolutionize energy sector
By Muhammad Aftab Alam
The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) brought 1,100 megawatts (MW) of clean, reliable, and affordable electricity to the nation on Pakistan Day by connecting the much-anticipated Karachi Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 (K-2) ) into the national network. Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Muhammad Naeem (HI, SI) congratulated Power PAEC member Saeed urRehman and his team of hardworking scientists, engineers and technicians on this major step in revolutionizing the country’s energy sector.
K-2 is the first NPP in Pakistan with a generating capacity of 1100 MW and its inclusion in the national grid will certainly help to reduce load shedding, especially in summer.
The K-2 nuclear power plant (KKW) reached criticality at the end of February this year and was subjected to certain safety tests and procedures before it could finally be connected to the grid. The loading of the facility with nuclear fuel began on December 1, 2020 after the Pakistani Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) granted the permit. K-2 is one of two similar NPPs under construction near Karachi and will be inaugurated for commercial operation at the end of May this year. The other, named K-3, is also in the completion phase and is expected to be operational in 2022.
PAEC is making steady strides to meet the government’s set target of producing 8,800 MW of nuclear power by 2030 and 40,000 MW of nuclear power for the county by 2050. Pakistan’s nuclear power plants, including K-2 and K-3 under construction, are protected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
PAEC currently operates six NPPs in the country. Two of them are located in Karachi and are called Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) and K-2, while four are located in Chashma, Mianwali District, called Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1-4. Previously, the collective generation capacity of all nuclear power plants operated by the PAEC was around 1,400 MW. The commissioning of K-2 will almost double the generation capacity of nuclear power plants in the country and significantly improve the overall share of nuclear energy in the energy mix.
If we look at the use of the nuclear option by leading nation states in the world, France currently has a nuclear share of over 70 percent of electricity generation. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report shows that no country is as dependent on nuclear energy as France. In 2019, 58 reactors were operating, second only to 97 in the US, and they accounted for 71.7 percent of total electricity generation.
The US reactors had a share of 19.3 percent of the total electricity generation. After France, the countries most dependent on nuclear power are concentrated in Eastern Europe. In Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary, reactors generate between 50 and 55 percent of all electricity. Sweden is also at the top of the list with just over 40 percent, followed by Belgium (39 percent) and Switzerland (37.7 percent).
For Pakistan, the nuclear power program is still in the early stages, although there has been evidence that its nuclear power plants have been operating smoothly for over four decades.
Pakistan’s Chashma-2 nuclear power plant set a national record in the country’s history in 2020 by running continuously for a year, making it the country’s second power plant to reach this milestone. Previously, Chashma’s nuclear power plant unit 4 set the record of 365 days of uninterrupted operation on July 1, 2020. The record of the efficient and safe operation of Chashma-2 along with the earlier record of Chashma-4 speaks volumes of the ingenuity and hard work of the PAEC teams of technicians, scientists and engineers. Currently, Chashma power plants (C-1 through C-4) produce electricity at an average tariff of Rs. 11.16 / kWh when operating above 95% of the capacity factor.
Nuclear power is Pakistan’s future as the cheapest base load energy source. It is environmentally harmful for almost zero emission values and, above all, the nuclear fuel is strategically suitable for long-term storage, since, unlike furnace oil, fuel can be stored on site for the multi-year operation of nuclear power plants.
It is high time we embraced nuclear energy with open arms, because it deserves a far better and more prominent place in Pakistan’s energy mix than it does now. PAEC management also deserves the nation’s recognition for their tireless efforts to bring about socio-economic development in the country.