Many states have used nuclear energy worldwide to overcome energy challenges, and Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear program is a great success. Realizing the true potential of nuclear energy, Pakistan developed a comprehensive framework for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The Nuclear Program of Pakistan is safe and robust. It has always been a responsible nuclear weapon state and therefore except for the baseless allegations, there has never been a single instance of theft of nuclear material.
Although Pakistan didn’t sign Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty NPT due to its deep security concerns but cooperates and works closely with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). IAEA is an intergovernmental organization that promotes and regulates the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Its mandate is to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world. Pakistan signed a safeguard agreement with IAEA in 2005 that allows IAEA to inspect Pakistan’s civilian nuclear facilities and their use for peaceful purposes only. It also covers the export and import of nuclear weapons. Along with this agreement, Pakistan’s internal nuclear security regime is also comprehensive including both legislative and regulatory framework that governs nuclear safety and security. Pakistan National Command Authority is the apex decision-making body in all nuclear-related matters with effective and robust command and control system.
For regulation of nuclear safety and protection of radiation, transport, and waste of nuclear material, Pakistan has developed Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). The ‘Regulations on Security of Radioactive Sources’ is in line with the IAEA Code of Conduct on nuclear safety and security of radioactive resources and its two supplementary guidance documents. The Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) looks upon the export controls to monitor the items that can be used for the development of Nuclear, Chemical, or biological weapons or their delivery systems. Pakistan has strengthened its control on exports of nuclear, biological, and related materials and their delivery systems through the Export Control Act of 2004. The National Control Lists are reviewed periodically as per the changes made by International export control regimes.
Pakistan has successfully implemented the IAEA nuclear security program and contributes to and benefits from the IAEA regarding the security of nuclear material as per its mandate.
The Director General of IAEA Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi has recently visited Pakistan for a two-day visit and inspected 6 nuclear sites in Pakistan. He acknowledged Pakistan’s technical and engineering capacity for new nuclear power plants including Small Modular Reactors. As Pakistan is the country that suffers most from Climate change and Energy crises, hence nuclear energy is the best option for Pakistan to mitigate climate issues and energy crises. The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog praised Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security along with its technical capacity. He reiterated that “Pakistan has a promising future concerning nuclear energy”.
The DG IAEA comments show that Pakistan has adopted an extremely secure and robust mechanism for its nuclear safety and despite the political instability and economic downfall; Pakistan’s nuclear regime is safe and secure. He even termed Pakistan’s civilian nuclear facilities as “World Class” and Impeccable. Moreover, he acknowledged Pakistan’s nuclear capacity to develop new nuclear plants that will help the state meet its critical energy demands causing a reduction in energy costs and producing clean and environmentally friendly energy.
The initial set-up of such plants requires a strong financial back-up because they are relatively high cost as compared to other set-ups like fossil fuel power plants. But in the long run, nuclear power plants are relatively cheaper to operate and require specific topography to be safe and functional. The DG visit is a success in projecting a positive image of Pakistan in the nuclear community as he has also approved nuclear facilities and extended support for civilian use of nuclear projects. However, financing such projects is still a question and that requires a strong economy.
Hence, Pakistan must focus on restructuring its finances and capital to improve its economic situation which will solve the other problems. Nuclear Technology and its peaceful use are what all the states are seeking to improve their energy needs. Yet, a strong financial backup to support the nuclear program for peaceful use is crucial for long-term sustenance and stability. The majority of issues that Pakistan is facing today are due to the weak economy. Hence, when the state’s finances will be in order, only then nuclear power can be a long-term solution to our health, environmental, and energy problems. With the multiplicity of challenges that states are facing, nuclear energy remains a suitable option to mitigate issues related to health, agriculture, food, and water. Therefore, Pakistan should maximize its cooperation with IAEA to benefit from its technical cooperation program.
The Author is Researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, working on Comprehensive Security and Strategic Stability. She is also an M.Phil. Scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.