Nuclear power generation


Jhe month is marked by Pakistan crossing a cumulative nuclear power generation capacity of 3,635 MWe, with the third nuclear power plant in Karachi being connected to the national grid for testing purposes and will soon begin commercial operations.

Commonly referred to as Kanupp-3 or K-3, it has an installed generation capacity of 1,145 MWe and a net capacity of 1,100 MWe, which had reached criticality last month and was undergoing safety tests and procedures. . The generation cost is about Rs 9.59 per KWh (levelled). The foreign currency part of the project, which represents about 80% of the total cost, was financed by a loan from the Chinese public bank The Export-Import Bank of China.

With the addition of the K-3 nuclear power plant, seven nuclear power plants are currently installed in the country, six of which, with a combined installed capacity of 3,635 MWe, are in operation. The very first nuclear power plant built in the country, Kanupp-1 (K-1), has been permanently shut down. With the start of commercial operations of K-3, the share of nuclear power in the overall generation mix of all resources nationwide has increased significantly, to over 9.1%. This share, which was 1.1% in 1990, has gradually and steadily increased in recent years to reach 7.1% in 2020, before reaching the current level.

These nuclear power plants, established with technical and economic support from China, are owned and operated by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and regulated by the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). These facilities are only located at two sites – Chashma (Mianwali district) and Karachi. There are four nuclear power plants, namely Chasnupp-1 (C-1) with an installed capacity of 325 MWe, and C-2, C-3 and C-4, each with a capacity of 340 MWe.

These four Chashma power plants were commissioned in the years 2000, 2011, 2016 and 2017, respectively, and their corresponding operating licenses are valid until December 2030, 2026, 2026 and 2027. Pakistan has an impeccable record with regard to safety and security in the operation of these nuclear power plants. power plants, as it follows the best practices and standards set by the IAEA. Pakistan is currently ranked 17th out of 25 countries on the Nuclear Material Safety Index in terms of safety and security and is ahead of India.

The Karachi Coastal Energy Complex consists of two units of 1,145 MWe each, called K-2 and K-3, for which China provided a $6.5 billion loan on concessional terms. The previous K-2 unit was connected to the National Transmission and Despatch Co (NTDC) system in May 2021. These are third-generation nuclear power plants developed and tested by the Chinese under the name “Advanced China Pressurized ACP-1000”. The electricity transmission infrastructure for the evacuation of electricity from these plants includes additional 550 kv and 220 kv transmission lines of 16 km which have recently been completed by the NTDC at a cost of 5.6 billion rupees.

The K-1 nuclear power plant with a capacity of 137 MWe was built near Karachi in 1971 and connected to the national grid in October 1972. It was designed to operate for 30 years. At the end of its life in 2002, major balancing, modernization and rehabilitation (BMR) and safety upgrades to the facility were carried out by PAEC, and it has operated safely ever since. 2003 until recently at a decommissioned capacity of approximately 98 MWe. . After 50 years of successful and record-breaking operation, the plant was closed in August 2021 for decommissioning and dismantling.

Currently, the plan for the decommissioning process is underway under the leadership of the IAEA. There are various decommissioning and dismantling strategies that have their own advantages and disadvantages, considering factors such as economic viability, local conditions, and site availability for reuse. The PNRA has thus drawn up a dismantling plan based on the deferred dismantling, or “safety enclosure”, of the structures in phases. The nuclear installation will be closed for a period of approximately 30 to 50 years, thus ensuring a progressive and systematic reduction of the radiological risks.

The expansion of nuclear power capacity has long been a central element of Pakistan’s energy policy. According to the 2005-2030 energy security plan, five other nuclear power plants of approximately 1,000 MWe each will be built by 2030 on sites already identified; reach a cumulative installed capacity of 8,800 MWe by then. Thus, it was planned to increase the existing nuclear power generation capacity to 4,630 MWe by 2024, by constructing a 1,100 MWe unit (similar to K-2 and K-3) in Chashma (C- 5), but this would be delayed because the construction of the project has not yet started.

Similarly, the planned project to build a 1,100 MWe reactor at Muzaffargarh (Taunsa-Punjnad Canal) to be operational by 2025 may not be able to meet the target schedule. Given the self-sufficiency and growing demand for electricity, Pakistan is expected to accelerate the addition of nuclear capacity as planned. The energy security plan known as the Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP) 2021-2030 emphasizes increasing hydroelectric and nuclear generation capacity.

Globally, nuclear power capacity is expanding. Currently, 442 nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 393 GWe are operational in 30 countries. 52 other reactors with a combined capacity of more than 54 GWe are under construction in 20 countries. The IAEA predicts that the world’s nuclear power capacity will double by 2050 to reach the 792 GWe mark. Pakistan has an ambitious plan – in line with Pakistan’s Nuclear Power Vision 2050 – to have 44,000 MWe of nuclear power capacity by 2050.

The advantages of electricity produced by nuclear energy include a low unit cost of production, year-round availability and the absence of greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to being of crucial importance from a strategic point of view.

– The writer is retired president of State Engineering Corporation

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