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Nuclear power development.

Nuclear Power Development

Nuclear power has been successfully used for the generation of electricity. At present there are some 400 nuclear power plants around the world. The commercial nuclear power programme of the United States being the largest in the world (110 reactors with total capacity of about 137,000 MW) act as the powerful trend setter in this field.

France that had only 60% of nuclear electricity on its grid a few years back, has now more than 80%. It is running fifty four 900MW nuclear power reactors (one such plant may be installed in Pakistan). It has yet another fourteen jumbo 1300 MW types. France turns out a 900 MW nuclear power reactor every eight weeks. Japan in the East being the fourth largest in nuclear power industry, is generating 27% of its electricity from atom. USA, France and Russia, in that order, have a larger nuclear industry.

This trend toward nuclear power is world wide. In Sweden, the planned phase out of nuclear power due to begin in 1995, forced by an anti-nuclear movement, is being reconsidered. In Canada, Ontario Hydro has unveiled plans for 10 more CANDUs with a total capacity of about 9,000 MW. In West Germany, after a slow down in face of anti-nuclear-power movements, the importance of nuclear power as the future energy source is now well recognised. The large nuclear power programme of Japan and South Korea is continuing as planned.

The government of India has approved the establishment of six more nuclear reactors of 5000 MW capacity each and the preliminary steps have been taken to this end. These six units would enable India to achieve the target of generation of 13,000 MW of nuclear electricity by the end of this century against the proposed 6000 MW of nuclear power by 2009.

The year 1988-89 marked significant developments in the atomic energy programme in India. The decision of the government to set up indigenous nuclear power reactors with a cumulative capacity of about 4000MW has given a big impetus to the Indian nuclear power generation capacity by the year 2000 A.D. In addition, an intergovernment agreement was signed with the USSR for the construction of pressurised water reactors of 1000MW each in India.

Pakistan like Japan, is one of those few countries that have no option but to go nuclear because it has very meagre fossil fuel reserves. Again, in the long term perspective, development of nuclear power looks in-escapable. Fossil fuels are limited over the globe and at the fast rate at which they are being consumed, they will go on depleting and getting scarce with time. And, there is no other power source over the horizon for the next 30 or 40 years that can replace fossil fuels to produce electricity in bulk.

The third compelling reason is that it is the only source to produce electrical power for the grid with a good factor or reliability for a country like Pakistan that has to import a large share of fossil fuels (coal and oil supply from abroad shipped in thousands of tons, week after week, month after month can be disrupted any time; Japan was in a quandary during the Gulf War).

A nuclear reactor is fuelled once and with some fuel in the basement as reserve, one can forget about the supply of fuel for a year or two. Until fusion reactors (hydrogen bomb reactions tamed) are on the scene - and that may take another 40 years or more - mankind will have to lean heavily on uranium and thorium atoms for most of its growing power needs.

Pakistan is one of the most poorly endowed countries in conventional fuel resources. If it looks towards nuclear energy to meet its electricity requirements on purely economic grounds, it does so in keeping with what other countries, both developing and industrialised countries, are doing. For instance, South Korea is planning to install more than 30,000 MW nuclear plants to meet two-thirds of its electricity needs by the year 2000. Likewise, India 1300 MW, Egypt has contracted two nuclear plants from France and the United States. Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have already embarked upon sizeable nuclear programmes and many other developing countries in Eastern Europe, South and West Asia and Middle East are following suit.


Atomic Reactors in Selected Countries
 Reactors Reactors
 in Planned
Country Operation for future
USA 110 --
France 32 27
West Germany 15 12
Britain 37 10
Japan 24 13
Soviet Union 40 15
India 4 1
South Korea 3 6
Brazil 1 1

Source: Time, February 13, 1984


Pakistan entered into the nuclear field in 1956 when Pakistan Atomic Commission was founded. At this time India already demonstrated its scientific and technological skill by indigenously designing a nuclear reactor. In 1963 Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) was established at Nilore near Islamabad on the lines of Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

A5 MW swimming pool type Research Reactor, similar to Indian CIRUS, became critical in 1965. It was acquired from the USA and was to be the main facility of research at PINSTECH. In 1972, KANUPP, a 137 MWe Power Plant went critical. This natural uranium heavy water moderated reactor called CANDU, was erected by the AECL company of Canada on a turnkey basis.


KANUPP was based on Canadian nuclear cooperation agreement and supported by IAEA safeguards. Canada repealed the agreement in 1976. It was a great setback but Pakistan soon developed a modest fuel fabrication plant which fuels KANUPP at meagre power levels.

The plant, which has been in use for about 18 years and generated about 3500 GWH of electricity, has been fully manned, operated and maintained by Pakistani scientists, engineers and technicians without outside technical support since 1976. Its excellent safety record and good performance throughout are a clear demonstration of Pakistan's ability to safely handle this advanced technology and assimilate it in the industrial infrastructure.

While KANUPP employs natural uranium as, its fuel, most of the reactors around the world have found it more profitable to use enriched uranium as fuel. Enrichment means raising the percentage of U-235 from less than one per cent to anything upto 90 to 95 per cent. A nuclear power reactor generally runs on enriched uranium of a grade that has U-235 two to three per cent in the fuel; a uranium bomb has to have an enrichment of 90 per cent or above.

Chashma Power Project

During the last 12 years a number of studies have been carried out with the help of IAEA and other international agencies to assess the country's requirements of nuclear power till the year 2000 and to identify the appropriate sizes and timings for the introduction of nuclear power plants in the national grid. The latest assessment indicates that if the total power generation capacity in the country is to reach a level of 18,000 MW by the year 2000 the corresponding requirement of nuclear component will be about 5000 MW. The government has approved the construction of a 900 MW nuclear power station (CHASNUPP) by 1991 at Chashma near Mianwali.

Considerable effort has been made during the past 25 years towards the training of technical manpower and establishment of ancillary facilities to support the nuclear power generation programme. However, since the nuclear explosion by India in 1979 Pakistan has been suffering from a severely impeded flow of technology in all areas even remotely connected with nuclear power development. The embargoes have included material, equipment, training facilities information even though Pakistan has abided by all IAEA safeguards, fully satisfied the Agency's inspection teams, and repeatedly declared, at the highest levels and in completely unambiguous terms, that its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes. The denial of technology still goes on, thereby hampering the development of nuclear power in Pakistan, and aggravating its energy situation.

Nuclear Power Plant from China

China will supply a nuclear reactor to generate 300 MW of electricity under an agreement. Work on this project would commence by the end of this year and would be completed in six years time which means in 1996. It would also provide opportunity to Pakistan's atomic scientists and engineers to participate fully in the transfer of technology as a similar nuclear plant is operating in China and two more plants of this type which use the high pressure water reactor, would be established in China before the completion of the project in Pakistan.

Agreement signed between Pakistan and China is a new start to the nuclear programme which was stalled for political reasons for many years. About fuel arrangements, the first instalment will come with the reactor and subsequently Pakistan will fabricate the fuel bundles. However, two to two and half per cent of enriched uranium may be used at the reactor as fuel.

The 300 MW nuclear plant would be pressurised water reactor, a type very popular throughout the world and guaranteed by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for safety. There are already 320 such reactors operating presently.

Pakistan's agreement with China for the nuclear power plant has paved the way for the south-south cooperation as a developing country would transfer technology to another developing country. The agreement did not compromise the national nuclear policy. The reactor would be directly under the safeguard of IAEA. The power reactor for economic application would be completed in 1996 in a period of five and half years which is minimum time for the completion of such a project.

Under the agreement China will provide fuel and spares for the proposed plant for a long time to come, but Pakistan could stop getting the supply after becoming self reliant. The cost estimates are not available but according to the present cost estimate the project should cost $ 400 to $ 450 million.

Nuclear Power Plant from France

France has agreed to supply to Pakistan a 937 MW nuclear power plant. The deal was signed during the first-ever visit to Pakistan by French President Francois Mitterrand. France has also agreed to settle amicably the reprocessing plant issue. It may be recalled that French Government decided to cancel the reprocessing deal 15 years ago. Pakistan had also paid a down payment of some $ 200 million and had investment by way of training and infrastructure. Pakistan lodged a claim of over $ 300 million for losses due to its backing out of its commitment. The International Chamber of Commerce based in Paris had already ruled that France should pay Pakistan a compensation. French President defended his decision to permit the sale of nuclear power plant to Pakistan which has not signed a Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by pointing out that France has sold nuclear power plants to India which has also not signed NPT. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has estimated that by the turn of the century, Pakistan should have nuclear power generation capacity to about 5000 MW. This means installation of about six nuclear power stations of the size of Chashma.

The French nuclear power plant of 900 megawatt worth 1.5 billion US dollars is based on General Electric (US design) of the pressurised water reactor. Similar nuclear power reactors were first fabricated in early 1970's to generate 500 to 600 megawatt electricity. It was similar design offered to Pakistan in mid 1970's. During early 1980's the design was updated, and the advanced version has been uprated to 900 megawatts. It is worth noting that France has acquired very high expertise in the field of nuclear power generation. Today there are 54 nuclear electricity generating stations in France which produce 80 per cent of the total electric energy needs of the French Republic.

In addition to meeting own energy needs France supplies electricity to neighbouring EEC countries from its nuclear power network. It is nuclear power which has made France into a powerful technologically advanced industrial nation. It is good to see that France which has a very special place in the Free World has placed its nuclear expertise at the disposal of countries like Pakistan.

Pakistan is exercising all possible options to promote nuclear technology to overcome the energy crisis. The Government has approved a five year plan for designing and development of engineering capability to make nuclear reactors within the country. The Government has done well to draw up a 20-year plan for nuclear power generation with reactors proposed to be manufactured within the country. The plan is ambitious aiming at 6000 MW nuclear power generation capacity by the turn of the century.

Pakistan would be in a position to indigenously meet the total first filling and replenishment fuel requirement of the 937 megawatt power plant agreed to by France to Pakistan. For achieving critically the plant would need from 220 to 250 tonnes of about three per cent enriched uranium, which Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan said, "his project would be able to provide. Supply of fuel for the plant to be purchased from France should be no problem".

Dr. A.Q. Khan said that he had announced as early as 1984 that Pakistan had acquired the capability to enrich uranium to any degree through entirely indigenous efforts. This feat placed Pakistan on the world nuclear map as Pakistan became the fifth country in the world and first in the developing countries to enrich uranium by exploiting the centrifuge process. Pakistan and the French Vendor, who would manufacture the power plant have yet to negotiate the supply of fuel which in case of pressurised water reactor (PWR) plants is 3.2 enriched uranium. Its storage and disposal would also be part of these negotiations. In a nuclear power plant, only 20-25 per cent of the investment goes into the nuclear reactor steam supply system, while 75-80 per cent of the investment goes to the normal equipment of thermal electric power plants as shown in the table below:


Typical Cost Breakdown of a Nuclear Power Reactor
Civil Works 15
Nuclear Reactor 23
Turbine Plant Equipment 25
Electric Equipment 8
Miscellaneous 2
Contingency and Spares 5
Professional Services 12
Other Costs 9
 TOTAL:- 100

Source: (Nuclear Proliferation Fact Book, 1977) As quoted in Pakistan's Dilemma Energy & Security Dimensions.

Pakistan's Nuclear Profile

(NPT Non-signatory) 1. Research Reactors:

- 5 MWe; Swimming pool type;

US supplied. 2. Power Reactors:

- KANUPP 125 MWe; natural uranium CANDU type;

Canadian supplied; operational 1971;

- CHASNUPP - Mianwali 900 MW

France agreed to supply the plant.

- Nuclear Power Plant 300 MW.

China agreed to supply the Plant. 3. Nuclear Fuel Technologies:

- One fuel fabrication plant; indigenously developed, operational

- One Reprocessing plant; indigenously developed; status not known.

- One gas centrifuge enrichment plants.

components imported; indigenous construction.

- Uranium ore reserves.

Nuclear Minerals

Indigenous availability of uranium and zircon is an important aspect of a nuclear power programme. Fortunately these are available locally in required quantities. A plant for fuel fabrication has been built for meeting the needs of KANUPP and some R&D initiated in various technologies associated with the nuclear fuel cycle. Reactor grade zirconium has also been successfully developed. As a result of this, Pakistan is now self-sufficient in the supply of nuclear fuel for KANUPP.

Facilities for preparing special materials and alloys in the country have been developed; use of radiations and radioisotopes for non-destructive testing and of computers in process control has been extended. In short, the general standards of mechanical and chemical engineering, manufacturing and project management have been significantly improved in recent years, thereby enhancing the value-adding capability of the country's industry.

PHOTO : The Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, Islamabad
COPYRIGHT 1991 Economic and Industrial Publications
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Economic Review
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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