The History of Nuclear Cooperation Between China and Pakistan from the Signing of Another $4.8 Billion Nuclear Power Plant Deal
- by BTN
Pakistan and China signed a $4.8 billion agreement on June 20 for China to assist Pakistan in building a 1,200 megawatt nuclear power plant. The nuclear power plant project will be built in central Punjab province, and the Pakistani government intends to get rid of its excessive dependence on oil and other fuels through China’s support. There are already 6 nuclear power plants in Pakistan, including Pakistan’s sixth nuclear power plant, which was commissioned 2 years ago. With the commissioning of this nuclear power plant, the total nuclear energy capacity of the State of Pakistan has risen to 1,400 megawatts. The sixth 1,100 MW power plant is located in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and was also built with the assistance of China. Even with 6 nuclear power plants, Pakistan still faces severe power shortages, especially during the summer months and at the peak of electricity consumption, and meeting the power shortfall remains a huge challenge for the current government at a time when Pakistan is facing a shortage of foreign currency in the US dollar.
Pakistan’s own nuclear energy program began in 1954, largely inspired by then-U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech in December 1953. In his speech, Eisenhower emphasized promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in agriculture, medicine and power generation. Inspired by this, in 1959 the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission signed an agreement with the Canadian General Electric Company to build a 137 MW power nuclear reactor in Karachi. The Karachi I nuclear power plant began commercial operation in 1972 under International Atomic Energy Agency specific safeguards.
However, after a 1974 accident in India using plutonium from a Canadian-supplied nuclear reactor, Canada began selling nuclear technology only to countries that had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or accepted comprehensive safeguards, and these countries allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect civilian and military nuclear facilities. India’s refusal to meet these conditions at the time, followed by Pakistan, led to the termination of Canada’s civil nuclear cooperation with India and Pakistan in 1976.
And China’s assistance to Pakistan’s civilian nuclear energy program began back in the late 1970s. At the time, Pakistan sought assistance from China to establish its fledgling nuclear energy program and to address the nation’s power shortages. Since the two countries began cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, China has played an important role in helping Pakistan develop nuclear energy technology by assisting it in building nuclear power plants. In 1986, China and Pakistan signed an agreement to facilitate the transfer of civilian nuclear technology. Under the agreement, China agreed to provide Pakistan with power reactors and various nuclear-related products and services, such as uranium enrichment research and technical support. The agreement not only plays an important role in Pakistan’s economic development by increasing industrial and technological capacity, but also helps bridge the gap between Pakistan’s energy needs and availability.
Following an agreement in 1986, China agreed in 1991 to provide Pakistan with its own self-developed nuclear power plant. Construction of the Chashma 1 nuclear power plant began in 1993 and the 300 MW reactor was put into operation in May 2000. In 2005, Pakistan announced the start of construction of a second 300 MW power plant at Chashma. To further close the gap in the energy supply and demand chain, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) have agreed to build two more nuclear reactors at the Chashma nuclear power plant. The two new reactors have a net capacity of 315 MW and have been in operation since 2016 and 2017, respectively.
In a continuing effort to overcome its growing energy crisis and economic woes, Pakistan has sought to increase the contribution of nuclear and other renewable energy sources to its overall energy mix. By 2030, Pakistan aims to generate 8,800 megawatts of electricity from nuclear energy, which will account for 20 percent of Pakistan’s total energy. To achieve this goal, China and Pakistan agreed in November 2017 to build a fifth nuclear power plant in Chashma. The reactor will add up to 1,000 megawatts of power to Pakistan’s national grid when completed. Although nuclear energy currently represents only a small portion of Pakistan’s total energy mix, expanding Pakistan’s nuclear power generation capacity and combining it with other renewable energy sources will not only help alleviate Pakistan’s energy crisis, but will also have a positive impact on the climate.
Another highlight of the new nuclear power plant agreement between China and Pakistan is that the plant will be built in the central Punjab region of Pakistan, which will further reduce the energy constraint in the region, especially in the economic province of Punjab, which is a huge contributor to the national GDP. This nuclear power plant in Punjab, once completed, will have a positive impact on the economic growth of Punjab, a province with a large manufacturing sector.
Pakistan and China signed a $4.8 billion agreement on June 20 for China to assist Pakistan in building a 1,200 megawatt nuclear power plant. The nuclear power plant project will be built in central Punjab province, and the Pakistani government intends to get rid of its excessive dependence on oil…
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