Energy-starved Pakistan inaugurated its fourth nuclear power plant on Wednesday, a joint collaboration with China that adds 340 MW to the national grid as part of the PML-N goverment’s efforts to end a growth-sapping power deficit.
The Chashma-III plant at Chashma in Mianwali was inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who described it as a milestone in his government’s efforts to end power cuts.
He said the project reflected the close cooperation between Pakistan and China in science and technology. Another nuclear plant, Chashma-IV, is being built at the same site with Chinese assistance and Sahrif said he expected it to be commissioned by April 2017.
Two more reactors will follow at an unspecified date in central Pakistan, as well as two giant 2,200-MW power stations in southern Karachi.
Sharif thanked China for cooperation in the nuclear field and said the two countries are working together in many other areas, including roads, motorways, airports and urgrading Pakistan Railways.
Many projects were also initiated under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and their impact was now visible, he said. These projects are being implemented speedily and will help overcome unemployment and poverty and accelerate the pace of development, he added.
Chashma-II and Chashma-III are the most efficient plants in Pakistan, providing more than 600 MW to the national grid. Chashma-III was the third built as part of a collaboration between the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
Sharif appreciated the work done by the PAEC for self reliance in fuel fabrication and said his government will extend all possible to the panel to overcome the shortage of electricity.
Referring to the target of generating 8800 MW of nuclear power by 2030, Sharif asked the PAEC to take on the challenge of producing more than the target. He said there had been a marked reduction in load shedding during the past three years and pledged that power cuts would be over by 2018.
Sharif also asked the PAEC to take all possible measures to strengthen the safety of existing and future nuclear plants in line with international standards.
Pakistan is one of the few developing countries pursuing atomic energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, as it seeks to close an electricity shortfall that can stretch up to 7,000 MW in peak summer months, or around 32% of total demand.
The energy sector has struggled to cover the cost of producing electricity, leading the government to divert $2 billion annually as a subsidy, according to a recent report commissioned by the British government.
China is ramping up investment in Pakistan as part of the $46-billion CPEC that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.