Nuclear energy can play an influential role in combating Pakistan’s energy crisis. In this context, Pakistan has an enabling environment for nuclear energy production. Under the framework of basic guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Pakistan has established a complete institutional infrastructure for the successful implementation of its civilian nuclear program, including policy initiatives, institutional framework, operational, safety, and security mechanisms, decommissioning of nuclear power plants (NPPs), and waste management.
Pakistan possesses the technical expertise and a skilled workforce and closely coordinates with the IAEA, the World Association of Nuclear Operations (WANO), and the Candu Owners Group (CoG).
Over the years, Pakistan has established a comprehensive national nuclear operational, research, and regulatory authority dealing with nuclear energy production, nuclear safety, and radioactive material for related activities. With the support from China, Pakistan has successfully built six NPPs, that are safely and securely operated, a valuable addition in meeting the country’s energy demands through a safer and greener energy source. China’s National Nuclear Cooperation (CNNC), Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC),
Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), National Transmission and Dispatch Company Limited (NTDC), and Central Power Purchasing Agency (CCPA) are responsible for these operations. The PAEC and PNRA are responsible for decommissioning NPPs and the safety and waste management of radioactive material.
To gain technical expertise, the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH), a research and development wing of PAEC, since its commencement in 1966, has been working in various fields to utilize the full potential of nuclear energy for socio-economic benefits of the country, including health, agriculture, mineral, water, environment, and physical sciences. PINSTECH trains young professionals and engineers dealing with nuclear reactors, plants, and radioactive material. Similarly, National Center for Non-Destructive Testing (NCNDT) trains the concerned personnel in non-testing techniques, while Pakistan Welding Institute (PWI) aims to expertise the member graduates and professionals in welding techniques. Center of Nuclear Training (CHASCENT) is responsible for training the human resource of Chashma Nuclear Power Plants.
The Directorate of Human Resource Development (DHRD) at PAEC is responsible for inducting, retaining, and producing a skilled workforce. The workforce in nuclear-related activities hired are scholars and graduates from certain universities, including the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS). It is collaborating partner of the IAEA in training graduates in advanced nuclear technologies and applications. Other institutions, including Karachi Institute of Power Engineering (KINOPE), offer a post-graduate degree program and a year training course in nuclear power plant technology to the graduates of engineering and sciences. It also provides a year of training to technicians and operational personnel to retain licenses.
The regulatory bodies have enhanced their service provisions for a robust operational and safety mechanism. In 2014, since the inauguration of the National Institute on Safety and Security (NISAS), PNRA has become one of the leading collaborating parties with the IAEA for education, training, and providing technical support on nuclear safety to the relevant stakeholders within Pakistan.
Pakistan Center for Excellence in Nuclear Security (PCENS) conducts training and drills to ensure all nuclear safety and security aspects. The IAEA has also praised and shown confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear program. So far, none of the incidents or accidents has been reported from Pakistan. Despite the economic problems, Pakistan has had a robust mechanism for the smooth operations of NPPs.
Since Pakistan is not a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is prohibited from any assistance from the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). Thus, it needs to focus on enhancing its civilian nuclear capabilities by cooperating with China and through its indigenous efforts.
Nuclear technology is considered a sustainable, cost-effective, and renewable energy source. It can thus, help Islamabad fulfill its energy requirements and mitigate the threats of climate change, which the country has suffered from for several decades.
Dr. Rahat Iqbal is currently working as an Associate Director Research at the Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Islamabad, Pakistan. She holds a Ph.D. Degree in International Relations from University of Peshawar, Pakistan. She can be reached at Rahatfirstname.lastname@example.org or can be followed on twitter@rahatiqbal4