Wednesday June 07, 2023

Pakistan lacks technology to keep nuclear power plants running

May 27, 2016

ISLAMABAD: With its target to generate nuclear power of 8,800MW by 2030, Pakistan currently lacks the required technology to keep its nuclear power plants running. However, authorities concerned are on their toes to soon harness fuel technology for running the existing and future nuclear power plants (NPPs) as country is still importing the fuel and assembly facility from China to keep the two power plants (C1 and C2) operational each having capacity to produce 300MW at Chashma, Zaiuddin, Member (Engineering) of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) told The News here on Thursday.

 Once fueled, the nuclear power plant keeps running for 16 months and then the plant is again fueled. At the moment C1 and C2) are generating 600 MW at average cost of Rs7 per unit. In addition, the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KNUPP-1) is also operational and generating at the moment 70 MW. It is an old plant installed with assistance from Canada. When India exploded nuclear bomb in 1974, Canada stopped assisting on KNUPP. Since then Pakistan’s experts are running this project.

However, C3 and C4 are in advanced stage of construction. Both have the capacity to generate 860 MW. C-3 will go on stream in August 2016 whereas C-4 in February 2017. Likewise, KNUPP-2 and KNuPP-3 each with capacity to generate nuclear electricity of 1100 MW each, will be commissioned in June 2020 and April 2021 respectively. When asked for more details about efforts of PAEC for carving indigenous strategy to cope with the problem of fueling the nuclear power plants, Zaiuddin was hesitant, but said Pakistan has some plans to achieve the target and refused to share details.

 However, top sources in Planning Commission confirmed that the country has also planned to establish a nuclear power fuel complex (NPFC) at a cost of Rs51.298 billion to locally fabricate fuel that will be used for the future nuclear power plants in the country. The NPFC is being implemented that consists of five components— Chemical Processing Plants, Enrichment Plant, Seamless Tube Plant-1; Fuel Fabrication Plant; and Nuclear Fuel Testing Plant.

The officials said that under the strategy to achieve the target, Islamabad is to seek from Beijing the fuel technology for keeping future nuclear power plants operational.

To achieve the target, authorities concerned have also made a plan to develop manpower to materialise the country’s nuclear power programme. “We have, to this effect, initiated a capacity building programme of paramount importance at a cost of Rs491.42 million, including foreign exchange component of Rs166.70 million,” an official said.

Pakistan will instal 10 nuclear power plants by 2030 for which six sites have been selected to make possible “the mission impossible” to increase capacity to generate 8,800 MW.

“PAEC has selected six sites on the basis of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).” According to a senior official, the PAEC have selected six sites for installation of more nuclear power plants (NPPs) that include 1) Qadirabad-Bulloki (QB) link canal near Qadirabad Headworks; 2) Dera Ghazi Khan (DG) canal near Tuansa barrage, 3) Taunsa-Punjnad (TP) canal near Multan; 4) Nara canal near Sukkur, 5) Pat Feeder canal near Guddu and 6) Kabul river near Nowshera.

These sites are in addition to the Chashma site where four nuclear plants C-1, C-2 (already operational) and C-3 C-4 are going to be installed. The other nuclear power plants would be installed at sites selected by the PAEC. “Objective of the site selection is to determine all natural and man-induced hazards at a site which could jeopardise the safety of the NPP; reject a site if an engineering solution is not available to mitigate effects of any hazard and establish design-based parameters,” the sources said.

The government needs trained and qualified professionals to collaborate in the design and construction of more nuclear power plants to generate 8,800 MW of electricity. “Practically, we need 200-300 professionals per plant and an overhead of 600-800 centrally placed professionals to participate in the project management, design, engineering construction and installation of the nuclear power plants.”

“The currently available manpower for this purpose is less than 150 persons.” To a question, the official said selected professionals would also be provided sufficient competency in Chinese language to enable them to communicate with vendors and manufacturers in China.

They would also be provided some on-the-job hands-on training in the Chinese nuclear industry especially those related to manufacturing. To a question, the official said the PAEC has planned to recruit 400 persons during the next five years at the rate of 80 persons per year and keep them under training for a period of 18-20 months.

“The training programme of these persons will primarily consist of teaching them technical Chinese languages. And the services of NUML (National University of Modern Language) specialists will be used for this purpose.”

The official also disclosed that the said personnel would also be provided some nuclear power plants orientation and those who are not well-versed with Chinese language and in orientation courses will be sent for on-job training in China for up to four months depending upon their area of expertise and the availability of the training location.