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N-energy programme to be expanded

Pakistan is poised to expand its nuclear energy programme to overcome the severe energy crisis it is facing and has sought international support, PAEC chairman said on Wednesday.

“The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission is required and is poised to launch an expansion programme with more than 55 reactor-year of operation and maintenance behind us, three operating power plants and two more nuclear power plants coming up in next three years,” Chairman Dr Ansar Parvez said at the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

“With our very limited accessible conventional energy sources, nuclear power has to form an integral part of our energy portfolio because overcoming the energy crisis is currently an issue of the highest priority for our nation,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s belief in nuclear power as a viable, safe and environment-friendly resource and its plan to build more nuclear power plants stemmed from the safe and successful operation for more than forty years of the KANUPP, notwithstanding unilateral withdrawal of vendor support.

While the KANUPP (Karachi Nuclear Power Plant) was still licensed to operate after refurbishments and safety retrofits and performing well, the PAEC has two more units operating safely at Chashma, Dr Parvez said. “We take pride in the fact that nuclear, small in size though it still is, has been the best performing energy sector in the country.” Two more units were under construction at Chashma and would be connected to the grid by 2016 — months ahead of the schedule, he said, adding that all the nuclear plants were under IAEA safeguards.

Along with the growth of nuclear power programme, the regulatory process in Pakistan had also grown in strength and character, he said. “Progressing from a stage where the regulatory set-up functioned under the hat of the nuclear programme developer, we now have a strong, independent regulatory authority known as the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA)”.

Referring to the ‘Fukushima Daiichi accident’, the PAEC chairman said that the accident had been a watershed for the global nuclear industry. “One has to concede that the aftermath of Fukushima has put a damper on what was heralded before March 11 as “nuclear renaissance”.

But lessons had also been learnt from Fukushima and extensive mutual consultations and consequent implementation of safety upgrades had brought the nuclear community even closer together, he said.

He said Pakistan had remained alive to the situation in the aftermath of Fukushima and actively engaged in thoroughly reviewing the safety and emergency preparedness of its nuclear power plants.

He said Pakistan had an extensive programme of application of nuclear techniques to socio-economic sectors. The PAEC was operating 18 nuclear medicine and oncology hospitals because there was an annual increase of about 10pc in the number of cancer patients in the country.

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