K-3 empowers national energy grid
LAST month, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) connected Karachi Nuclear Power Plant Unit-3 (K-3) to the national grid.
The 1100 megawatts generation capacity nuclear power plant (NPP) had achieved criticality on 21st February and was undergoing certain safety tests and procedures before it could finally be connected to the grid.
The plant has been connected to the grid on testing basis and is expected to be inaugurated soon after attaining full power.
But the credit for this triumphant operation of the said plant goes to the team work of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD, an organic policy limb of the National Command Authority (NCA),and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).
Given the rapidly increasing dependence for enhanced access to national development, electricity is today recognized as the most critical pre-requisite for improving the lives of people of a country and Pakistan is not an exception.
Careful planning of the power sector is, therefore, quite complex while carrying great importance since the decisions to be taken involve the commitment of large resources, with potentially serious economic risks for the electrical utility and the economy as a whole.
NEPRA’s represented Indicative Generation capacity Expansion Plan— IGCEP-2021-30 is highly reflective of the fact that Pakistan will have to much more in order to cater to the emerging energy power needs.
As a consumer of traditional energy resources, Pakistan has always been an energy importer and is highly dependent on fossil fuels.
Whereas, large hydropower has proved to be the cheapest source of electricity. Despite the high availability of hydro power resources low investments in this sector hamper the utilization of this potential source.
Smaller (less than 50 MW) sites are available throughout the country. The micro – hydropower sector has been relatively well established yet.
Since the mid-80s micro-hydro power plants supply electricity to some 40,000 rural families.
Arguably, to meet with the growing energy needs entwined by expanding industrialization and the increasing population growth, Pakistan is obliged to explore further means of electric power generation.
As Pakistan seeks to significantly scale-up nuclear power to meet the rising energy demands of a growing population, the South Asian country has turned to the IAEA for support in strengthening its nuclear power programme.
Regulators, operators and representatives of organizations involved in Pakistan’s nuclear power programme gathered at the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna last month to discuss the Agency’s streamlined support for the country, which is aiming to expand its nuclear power generating capacity more than six-fold over the next decade, from 1430 MW to 8800 MW.
A new era in the nuclear power development programme of Pakistan was ushered in by the signing of ‘Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy’ between the governments of China and Pakistan in 1986.
The plant was built by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) by using Hualong One, its own third-generation nuclear reactor design.
After completion, each Hualong One Unit (K2-3) is expected to generate nearly 10 billion kWh of electricity annually, enough to meet the annual electricity demand of more than 4 million Pakistani households, equating to a 3. 12 million ton reduction in standard coal use and an 8.16 million ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.
It is also the equivalent of planting more than 70 million trees, CNNC claims. Hualong One was developed based on very mature technologies, aiming at easing power shortages in the Karachi region,” Pan told a forum in Fuqing, Fujian province, where the Hualong One pilot project is based.
K-3 is the second NPP in Pakistan with the generation capacity of 1,100 MW and its addition to the national grid is expected to help reduce electricity tariff in the country, the PAEC said.
The plants have been developed with the Chinese support. K-3 is one of the two similar NPPs located near Karachi.
Though the Kanneup-3plant has been connected to the grid on a testing basis, it is expected to be regulated soon after attaining full power.
The ground breaking of the project was performed on 26th November 2013 and the construction started after getting approval of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA).
The fuel loading of the plant started in December 2021 after getting clearance from the PNRA.
PAEC is now running six NPPs in the country. Two of them are located in Karachi and are named K-2 and K-3, while four in District Mianwali are named Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1-4.
Earlier, the collective generation capacity of all PAEC-operated NPPs was over 2,400 MWs. The K-3 will enhance the generation capacity of nuclear power plants in the country to over 3500 MW, substantially improving the overall share of nuclear power in the energy mix.
“Nuclear energy is safe, reliable, and an important source of electricity with zero carbon emission besides being economically competitive,” the PAEC said, adding that the NPPs were being operated under the safeguards of International Atomic Energy Agency.
It is important to mention that all the nuclear reactors are approved by the IAEA. Needless to say, Pakistan has been complying the required necessary nuclear reactor safety and security protocols stipulated by the IAEA.
In a latest move, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission said that new and updated nuclear safety regulations in Pakistan have significantly updated and strengthened nuclear and radiation safety in the country.
It further added, ‘’Pakistan’s regulatory functions and activities had improved nuclear safety by enhancing the development of regulations and strengthening arrangements for regulatory inspections, authorizations, emergency preparedness and response, occupational radiation protection and environmental radiation monitoring’’.
“A key challenge faced by nuclear power plants in Pakistan has been the unreliability of the electricity grid.
The Kannuppreactor has been shut down repeatedly because of grid fluctuations, and these are reported to have been a “constant concern” since the start of the Chashma reactor.
The Atomic Energy Commission has proposed building a large civilian (ie safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency) enrichment plant and a nuclear fuel production facility as part of this expansion.
’’ Currently, Pakistan has six functional nuclear reactors and to cope with the emerging energy needs, it requires least 12 more reactors.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.