Nuclear energy: The reliable source of electricity in Pakistan

Muhammad Nadeem Bhatti

Pakistan has been struggling with an energy crisis for decades. It has been more than 20 years that the industries of the country are not making any progress. In addition, the increasing unit prices are playing their part as a hurdle and stopping businessmen from expanding their industries and installing new units. The times are getting even more difficult with increasing fuel prices and daily new hikes of USD.

Thus, the citizens of Pakistan are unable to maintain a budget, and the salaried class is forced to live from hand to mouth to bear their expenses. The industry is the backbone of any country, and if the situation continues, I fear the country will soon default, and there will be a war-like situation where everyone fights with each other to get food and other usual stuff. So, this is the need of the hour steps should be taken to cope with the situation, and the investors, be given the opportunity to expand the industry. And this can be only possible if the government decreases fuel and electricity prices.

Ever since the Russia-Ukraine war, global warming and the gradual depletion of non-renewable sources of energy, such as oil, gas, and coal, are compelled nation-states, including most of the European countries, to reconsider their energy policies. Many of them are opting for energy production through nuclear power plants, which is not only safer, cheaper, and effective, but also supports self-reliance.

Given this, it is imperative that Pakistan too turns its focus on producing energy through its nuclear power plants (NPPs),including Karachi Nuclear Power Plants (having a capacity of 1100MW each), the Chasma-1 (325MW), the Chasma-2 (325MW), the Chasma-3 (350MW), and the Chasma-4 (350MW) — under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Since their beginning, all of these NPPs have not only been producing safer, reliable, and cheaper electricity, but more importantly, they have been timely and effectively contributing to the country’s fragile economy by saving billions of US dollars compared to other sources for energy production.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a major financial agency of the United Nations, headquartered in Washington, D.C., that providesa loan and funding facility to countries suffering from the economic crisis. Currently, Pakistan has billions of US $ in debt from the IMF, for which the agency suggests policies that the country has to follow to improve its economic conditions.

It is recommended that Kristalina Georgieva (Managing Director and Chairwoman of IMF) should advise the government of Pakistan and convince them to utilize the country’s atomic energy to cope with the crisis. Since its foundation in the mid-40s, IMF has always helped Pakistan stabilize its economy. Now, it is the responsibility of the organization to help the country in coping its energy crisis and in decreasing fuel prices.

According to estimates, through its 6 NPPs, Pakistan has managed to save $3.035 billion with reference to oil, $2.207 billion with reference to RLNG, and $1.586 billion with reference to imported coal during the fiscal year 2022. The same amount of electricity produced by NPPs when generated by other sources of energy production costs some additional $ 3 billion in fuel charges alone, not including the number of expenses on other related ingredients, further affecting the broader parameters of the country’s economy.

Electricity plays a major role in running the economic engine of a country. The more energy Pakistan produces and effectively uses, the more it protects its economy from fragility and the more it has the chance to prosper and grow. Thus, with national awareness and consistent functioning of Pakistan’s NPPs, the country can surely save more money and energy. This is why Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), highlighted that Pakistan must utilize its nuclear sources to produce electricity during his visit between February 15-16, 2023.

Recently, it has been reported that nuclear energy became Pakistan’s top source of power generation for the first time, generating 27.15% 2,284.8GWh at Rs1.073/unit. Carbon-based energy production is not only getting extremely expensive for many external and internal factors, but they are also not environmentally friendly and play a huge part in exacerbating the consequences of global warming.

Scientists argue that global warming is already occurring, and it has surprisingly increased the earth’s temperature by 2 degrees Fahrenheit in total since 1880.

They also believe that the earth’s temperature will continue to increase to 2.7 degrees by 2050 with far-reaching consequences such as the loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice sheets, the rise of sea level, and intense heat waves.

Pakistan’s contribution to global warming may increase if we continue to prioritize other sources of power production while downgrading nuclear energy.

That being said, as the world moves away from carbon-based sources and towards nuclear energy, it is imperative for Pakistan to be proactive by undertaking strict measures in order to successfully complete the Chasma-5 nuclear power plant — including that of K-4 and K-5 in Karachi and M-1 and M-2 in Muzaffargarh. Also, built with an investment of $2.7bn, the K-3 nuclear unit is expected to ease Pakistan’s ongoing energy crisis.

Arguably, these NPPs not only increase the country’s electricity production but will also help save billions of US dollars that Pakistan is currently spending on running other sources of energy. There is a need for both educating the government on such feasible, reliable, and cheaper options and also increasing awareness among the common masses.

Also, it is the responsibility of all the Islamic countries to help Pakistan in these difficult times, as it is the only nuclear power country in the Muslim world. So, to protect its sovereignty, ease its burdens, and pay the debts, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, and Brunei should send funds as much as they can so that Pakistan can protect the Islamic world as it been doing it for more than three decades.

—The writer is a Senior Social and Economic Analyst. Can be found at [email protected]