Ignoring long-term solution to energy crisis can multiply country’s woes

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad

At a time when need for reliable and affordable electricity supply is acutely felt and the federal government is relying largely on the nuclear power to meet the country’s energy needs Water & Power Ministry’s proposal to ban installation of further nuclear power plants is being seen with great surprise and concern.
Reportedly, the proposal to reduce use of imported coal and furnace oil and reduction of nuclear power generation by stopping the new nuclear power plants installation was floated by senior officials of the Ministry of Water & Power during a recently-held high level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The stance of the ministry is that by 2020 the country would be surplus in electricity and other energy resources therefore there is no need to install these plants.
On the contrary, independent sources questioning this claim say that in the coming years the scope and volume of Pakistan’s economy, pace of progress as a result of CPEC will certainly multiply demand for electricity and the surplus electricity as mentioned by the Ministry can be utilized there. “Thus the claim that we shall be surplus in energy/electricity in the year 2020 does not seem to substantiate the Ministry’s argument against more nuclear power plants,” the sources said. According to sources, Water & Power Ministry’s proposal if approved by the Prime Minister will have negative impact on the government’s pursuit to meet the country’s overwhelming electricity needs. At present, nuclear power is playing a vital role in the socio-economic development of major economies of the world and no one can deny its importance.
Worldwide, 61 nuclear power plants are either working or under construction in 16 countries. Of these, 21 are in China, 7 in Russia, 5 in India, 4 each in US and UAE, 3 each in Pakistan and South Korea and the remaining 14 nuclear power plants in 9 other countries. Reliable and affordable energy resources are key input to socio-economic development of a country and in Pakistan, for the last many decades, the demand of electricity has been increasing with the pace of economic growth. However, development of electricity supply infrastructure has so far failed to follow this pace and limited indigenous energy resource shave forced the country to generate electricity using imported oil, the sources further said. At present major towns and cities of the country are facing acute shortage of both electricity and gas and there is a public uproar against return of loadshedding up to 12 hours a day.
This shortage has disturbed all the targets of economic growth set by the government and created a lot of discomfort for the people of Pakistan. Although the government is going in right direction to overcome the country’s electricity needs, yet such proposals as given by the Water & Power Ministry acts as demoralizing factor. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by inauguration of the 340MW Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit- has once again reiterated his resolve to find out a practical solution to the prevailing energy crisis. Halting of the installation of nuclear power plants is going to serve no purpose and the nuclear power provides its chunk of electricity without a break for many days. Chashma Nuclear Power Plantunit-2 has recorded a continuous run of more than 300 days working at full capacity.  A nuclear power plant can literally run for years using fuel stored at the plant site, cutting the need of large fuel supply infrastructure, pipelines for gases and train and jetty for coal, said the sources adding, also the share of fuel cost in electricity generation from nuclear is small enough to absorb fuel price spikes. Another big advantage of nuclear power plant is that it, instead of less costly coal-fired electricity generation, would result in significant reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions which alarmingly contribute to global warming.
Nuclear electricity tariff in Pakistan is hovering around a single digit and the current tariff of Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit-1 is less than six rupees per unit and that of Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 is around Rs 8.50, which is lower than all oil-fired power plants and comparable with some gas fired power plants.

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