In November 2013, Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif performed the ground-breaking ceremony of country’s first largest civilian nuclear power plant (KANUP II and KANUPP III), in Karachi with a total capacity of 2,200 MWe. It’s to be build by China National Nuclear Cooperation (CNNC) under the supervision of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) at an estimated cost of $9.6 billion. According to Reuters, China has promised to provide a loan of $6.5 billion for the venture.
“There should be no double standards in terms of civilian nuclear deals. Pakistan has energy needs and the building of two new reactors should convince everyone that India’s embargos and restrictions won’t stop us,” said Dr. Ansar Parvez, chairman of the PAEC, which runs country’s civilian nuclear programme
Karachi is also home to nation’s first civilian nuclear plant (137 MWe), a Canadian pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR), which began its operation in 1971 with a design span life of 25 years. Currently, it’s running at 28% of its design capacity. It’s operated under international safeguards even though Pakistan refuses to join the NPT.
Pakistan’s second nuclear power plant Chashma I and Chashma II (300 MWe each), were supplied by China’s CNNC under safeguards. The main part of the plant was designed by Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute (SNERDI), based on Qinshan I. It started up in May 2000 and is also known as CHASNUPP I. Designed life span is 40 years. Work on the installation of two new reactors is in progress at the Chashma Nuclear Power Complex – Chashma III and Chashma IV (340 MWs each). Contracts for the two reactors were signed with the Chinese firms in 2009 and they are expected to begin commercial operations in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Pakistan sees nuclear energy as key to its efforts to solve power shortages that have crippled its economy. Pakistan generates about 11,000 MWe of power while total demand is about 15,000 MWe. The shortage of electricity has resulted in backouts lasting more than half a day in some areas have infuriated many Pakistanis and sparked violent protests, undermining country’s economy. Under its long-term energy plan, Pakistan hopes to produce more than 40,000 MWe of electricity through nuclear plants by 2050.
In the 1960s, Pakistan approached the US and Canada to sell research reactor of the CP-5 type in operation at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago; or of the NRX type from Canada – but under pressure from Jewish lobby groups the request was denied.
In the 1970s, the US and Israel persuaded France not to ship spent fuel reprocessing plants to Pakistan. The United States also pressured Germany to stop providing Brazil with a reprocessing plant.
Plutonium is produced as a result of neutron absorption in uranium-238 whenever uranium is irradiated in nuclear reactors. U-238 makes up more than 95 percent of the uranium in the fuel used in today’s common light-water reactors (LWRs), But it does not typically provide the energy in the once-through-nuclear fuel cycle; that comes from the rarer chain-reacting isotope uranium-235. Reprocessing was developed by the United States during the Manhattan Project to obtain plutonium for nuclear weapons by chemically separating it from spent nuclear fuel.
In 1974, India set off a nuclear explosive made with plutonium it obtained by reprocessing the fuel of a research reactor supplied by Canada for peaceful use. Pakistan followed India by testing its nuclear device with better fizzle than Indian nuclear test.
Pakistan has significant amount of uranium deposits but the amount extracted so far is not enough to operate new nuclear plants.
Pakistan is the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons. The other known nuclear-weapon nations include the US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel and India. NATO is also considered a nuclear-power with hundreds of nuclear weapons stored in Turkey, German, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Poland.
Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea are not sigatory to NPT.
An informative article from the World Nuclear Association on nuclear power in Pakistan, is available here.