Pakistan looks to expand nuclear power, plans several new reactors

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New Delhi: Pakistan’s atomic energy commission chairman has said that the country is looking at adding an additional three to four big reactors to its current strength of five small reactors to increase nuclear power capacity to 8,800 megawatts (MW) by 2030 from its current capacity of 1300 MW.

Speaking to Reuters, Muhammad Naeem Chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, outlined that work on two of these new reactors should by complete by 2021. “We have the plans in place, we are watching for proven technologies. We could award the contracts before year-end,” he said on the sidelines of a nuclear conference in Abu Dhabi. While the Chinese have recently increased their role – the latest made operational last month has been built by China National Nuclear Corp – Naeem did not specify if non-Chinese bidders would be allowed.

Pakistan, which has a nuclear weapons programme, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So, reactor vendors from the West cannot sell here. Therefore, China assumes even more significance.

Pakistan’s current line of nuclear reactors contribute just five per cent of the total electricity. At a time when the country is looking to increase this proportion and reduce dependence on oil, gas and hydropower.

The gap between supply and demand though remains glaring.In March, Dawn reported widespread load-shedding across the country. Several urban parts of the country reported six to eight hours of power shedding while rural areas saw 18 hours of power cut for a number of days. To varying degrees, it is a problem not just in Pakistan but in the entire sub-continent with even India looking to now reduce dependece on non-renewable resources.

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