Money Matters

Getting nuclear-ready

By Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui
Mon, 10, 19

The key message of the “International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power” held during October 7-11 in Vienna was for major nuclear role as nuclear energy. An integral part of the world’s clean energy future, nuclear power will help fight climate change as it has been a consistent source of low carbon electricity for decades.

The key message of the “International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power” held during October 7-11 in Vienna was for major nuclear role as nuclear energy. An integral part of the world’s clean energy future, nuclear power will help fight climate change as it has been a consistent source of low carbon electricity for decades.

From this perspective, it is a landmark development that another two nuclear power plants of over two-thousand megawatt total capacity would come on stream in Karachi within a couple of years. This will result in enhancing three times the present nuclear energy capacity, achieving around eleven percent share in power generation using various energy resources. With this accomplishment, the policy goals of the government to optimise energy mix and low carbon development would be adequately met, which would also be in line with the international agenda for power sector.

The government aims at mitigating carbon dioxide emissions up to 20 percent by 2030. By then the installed capacity of nuclear power generation will reach the mark of 8,800MW, as planned, to generate 27,850GWh annually. Pakistan’s total power generation capacity in 2030 is projected to be 46,683MW and envisaged to generate 191,781GWh, according to the SAARC Energy Outlook 2030. The government’s recent plan for capacity addition of about 17,000MW by 2025 is unrealistic, and likely to be achieved by 2030.

National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has admitted this month application of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) for considering grant of a generation license for its Karachi Nuclear Power Plant-2 (KANUPP-2). The enriched uranium based nuclear power facility of 1,145MW gross and 1,059MW net capacity, is currently in advanced stage of construction, and expected to be connected to national grid sometime during July-November 2020.

KANUPP-2 is one of the two under-construction units of the Karachi Coastal Power Project of the same type and capacity being supplied by China on turn-key basis. Groundbreaking of the two units was held in November 2013, but construction was held up as the public environmental issues took the matter to the court. Project was re-launched after a gap of about two years. Construction of KANUPP-2 thus commenced in August 2015 and that of KANUPP-3 in May 2016. The second unit, known as KANUPP-3, is scheduled to achieve commercial operations by the end of year 2021. These units will have a design life of sixty years.

Both the units are subject to safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). These are pressurised light water reactors (PWR) of advanced design, known as Hualong One or HPR 1000 (HPR stands for Hualong Pressurized Reactor). The reactors have special features of having a single stack layout, 177 nuclear fuel assemblies, a double containment structure, and a combination of active and passive safety systems. The reactors are designed to provide emergency cooling for 72 hours in the absence of electric supply. Instrumentation and control systems are supplied from the European sources.

Total cost of the two units is estimated as $9.116 billion, which is being financed through a loan from Export-Import Bank of China, on the Chinese side and, on Pakistani side, under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) of the government. National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) is constructing additional 16km transmission line for evacuation of power from KANUPP-2 and KANUPP-3. Electricity transmission infrastructure for the project consists of 220KV and 500KV transmission lines, which will be completed in 2021. Generation cost works out Rs9.59 per kWh levelised, whereas plant availability factor is 90 percent.

Currently, there are five operating nuclear power plants with a cumulative generation capacity of 1,430MW contributing about 4 percent to total generation capacity from all resources of energy. These units provide economical and safe operation. The first nuclear power plant KANUPP-1, currently of 98MW de-rated capacity, was constructed in 1966 with the Canadian assistance and made operational in 1972. It has completed 47 years of safe and successful operation—much beyond its 30-year design life.

This has been possible through implementing a comprehensive balancing, modernization and rehabilitation plan for the original 137MW nuclear power plant, with technical support from the IAEA. Subsequently, conventional equipment was upgraded and critical equipment and controls were replaced at KANUPP-1. The plant, which is using the fuel produced by the PAEC, is now expected to be shut-down and decommissioned next year.

It was almost after three decades that the construction of the second nuclear power plant was started at Chashma, in 1993. Now four units of the installed Chashma Nuclear Power Plants (CHASNUPPs) are operational that have 40-year design life. CHASNUPP power plants are considered among the best operating power units in terms of endurance and availability. Average cost of nuclear power to the NTDC is Rs6.35 per unit. Expansion of nuclear power capacity has long been a corner-stone of the national energy policy. CHASNUPP-5 of over 1,000MW capacity is planned for launching in near future. Technological and engineering infrastructure created domestically over the years is supporting the existing, under-construction and planned nuclear power projects.

After the Fukushima Daiichi disaster of 2011, the PNRA prepared the Fukushima Response Action Plan, and implemented it for all the nuclear power plants. Comprehensive safety reviews were carried out, design safety of future plants was increased, safety against external hazards was upgraded, and emergency response programmes were strengthened. PNRA granted construction license for KANUPP-2 and KANUPP-3 after review of safety analysis received for these reactors from the suppliers. Government of Pakistan has an agreement with the IAEA, effective May 3, 2017, for application of safeguards in connection with the supply of these reactors and the lifetime fuel to be used.

Also, Pakistan has signed and ratified the Convention on Nuclear Safety and two other international conventions on notification and assistance in case of a nuclear accident or radiological (radiation protection) emergency.

In the backdrop of falling domestic gas production, gradual closure of inefficient oil-based power plants, and nominal addition of renewable energy projects of solar, wind and bio-mass, the nuclear energy has assumed greater significance for Pakistan's future. Nuclear energy is environmentally clean, affordable, reliable and sustainable, and thus ensures energy security at national level.

The writer is retired chairman of the State

Engineering Corporation