Recently, Pakistan has showcased its achievements in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna. Pakistan presented its achievements in diverse fields such as power generation, health, agriculture, industry and environmental protection. Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Muhammad Naeem and Head of Turkish Nuclear and Mineral Research Agency (TENMAK) Prof. Dr Abdulkadir Balikci inaugurated Pakistan’s national exhibition stand at the annual General Conference of the IAEA in Vienna.
The word “nuclear” triggers fear in few people’s mind, but it can inspire hope more than fear, because peaceful uses of nuclear technology have been powering and easing people lives since the dawn of the nuclear age. Nuclear technology plays an important role in socio-economic growth of a country. Nuclear energy is being effectively used by many states around the world to overcome energy challenges. Pakistan belongs to the list of developing countries which have been at the forefront in harnessing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Nuclear technology gives a range of clean and reliable options; thus, Pakistan is increasing its reliance on such cleaner alternatives.
Pakistan has been successfully utilising nuclear energy for almost 65 years. The journey started in 1955 with use of nuclear technology in medical centres, agriculture centres, and research and development projects. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has been pioneer to exploit nuclear technology in the fields of agriculture, medicine and industries besides carrying out fruitful research in nuclear sciences for the good of the people.
Pakistan made its debut in nuclear power generation by establishing country’s first 137 MW capacity nuclear power plant at Karachi (KANNUP) in 1972. The safe and successful operation of KANUPP gave Pakistan the confidence to further pursue and advance the nuclear power option to cope with the country’s severe electric power shortages. Prime Minister Imran Khan on 21st May 2021 virtually inaugurated the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 (K-2), a third-generation state-of-the-art plant with improved safety systems. The Karachi Coastal Power Project is part of Pakistan’s Nuclear Energy Vision Program that seeks to generate 40,000 MW of electric power by 2050. Over the years, Pakistan has been commendably successful in the application of nuclear energy and technology for the benefit and development of society. Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hailed the commissioning of the K-2 Nuclear Power Plant as a leap towards Pakistan’s clean energy future. Additionally, Pakistan has placed sufficient human resources capable of taking up more challenging assignments to harness nuclear energy for economic progress of the country.
Encouraged by successful experience of NPP for energy generation, PAEC is putting a lot of emphasis on peaceful applications of nuclear energy in medical sector. In this regard, the organization has so far established 18 nuclear medicine and oncology hospitals throughout the country. Thousands of patients suffering from thyroid, liver, kidney hypertension and brain tumour are diagnosed and treated at these centres every year.
Pakistan continues to utilize the enormous potential of nuclear technology for the socio-economic development of the country which are in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is evident from the fact that 18 PAEC cancer hospitals in Pakistan are providing facilities in nuclear medicine to nearly one million patients annually and contributing to SDG 3 on ‘good health and well-being’. Nuclear technology applications are also being used in diverse areas of electricity generation, agriculture, hydrology, industry, environment and basic sciences. Pakistan is also one of the largest recipients of IAEA’s technical and financial help that shows Pakistan has achieved considerable expertise in the application of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
PAEC has also been able to maintain an enviable safety record. The IAEA, on multiple occasions, praised Pakistan’s influencing commitment to the safety and security of its nuclear facilities/materials. To synergize the civilian use of nuclear resources, Pakistan has used its Centers of Excellence to promote and share best practices in nuclear security through three affiliated institutes – Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS), National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS), and Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS).
To further secure its civil nuclear materials, Pakistan has ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS). Pakistan has introduced an extensive institutional and legislative protocols to secure sensitive technologies and nuclear materials to implement UNSCR 1540.
Pakistan is proactively engaged with the international community to promote nuclear safety and security. NPPs in Pakistan are under IAEA safeguards. All these efforts of expanding nuclear energy programme are in pursuit of a clean and effective option to address Pakistan’s energy deficit and meet the international community’s ambitious goal of lowering global temperatures by two degrees in the next 30 years.
Pakistan’s immaculate history in utilizing nuclear energy is a vivid depiction and manifestation of its national resolve and commitment towards effective implementation of a stringent peaceful nuclear programme. Pakistan is in a position not only to use nuclear technology for its national programmes, but also can provide assistance to other countries of the region intending to exploit peaceful uses of nuclear technology.
In the continuing effort to overcome the growing energy crisis, there is a need to recognize the efforts and commitments that Pakistan has put in place for its peaceful nuclear programme. Pakistan has a clear goal of increasing its future use of nuclear energy and is currently expanding its infrastructure to fulfil those pursuits. To successfully meet its stated goals, Government intends to invest more in its research and development programs under its Nuclear Energy Vision-2050. Finally, Pakistan has an inherent interest in pursuing safe and efficient use of civil nuclear energy and should continue investing in this sector.