Pakistan's clean history in utilisation of nuclear energy needs recognition

Karachi was the first Pakistani city to benefit from nuclear energy after KANUPP was connected to the grid. The inauguration of K-2 and now K-3 is a milestone in Pakistan’s quest to increase the share of clean nuclear energy. 

Usman Ali Khan Mar 02, 2023
Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP)

On 15-16 February, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi visited Pakistan and held discussions focused on further enhancement of cooperation between Pakistan and the IAEA in areas regarding peaceful applications of nuclear technology, specifically its role in mitigating the impacts of climate change. During his visit to different facilities in Pakistan, Grossi lauded Pakistan's "impeccable" nuclear safety record and said that he foresees a bright future for nuclear power in Pakistan. He emphasized that Pakistan has the technical and engineering capacity for new nuclear power plants (NPPs) including Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), which indicates a promising future for nuclear energy in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nuclear power generation is currently the best-performing energy sub-sector in Pakistan. Pakistan has dedicated and well-established civil nuclear facilities and installations under IAEA. Moreover, on 1 February 2023, Pakistan inaugurated K-3, the third unit of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUP), which will produce 1,100 megawatts of electricity. With the introduction of K-3 into the national grid, the share of nuclear power in the energy mix of Pakistan will exceed by 10 per cent. This is an important step taken by Pakistan as the country is facing the disastrous impact of climate change.

From the very beginning, the word “nuclear” triggered fear that its misuse would have devastation. On the contrary, if utilized in a safe and peaceful manner, nuclear technology can usher in a better future throughout the world. Nuclear energy is currently being utilized by many countries around the world to overcome energy challenges and thus, playing a vital role in development and prosperity.

Over the years, Pakistan continues to utilize the enormous potential of nuclear technology for socio-economic development in pursuit of  UN SDGs. The utility of nuclear technology in Pakistan isn’t confined to the domain of energy and power production alone. Pakistan has been successfully utilizing nuclear technology in various sectors including agriculture, medicine, and scientific research and development.

Peaceful application of nuclear energy

To illustrate, PAEC is putting a lot of emphasis on peaceful applications of nuclear energy in the medical sector. In this regard, the organization has so far, established 19 nuclear medicine and oncology hospitals throughout the country. Pakistan has also used its Centers of Excellence to promote and share best practices in nuclear security through three affiliated institutes - the Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS), the National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS), and the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS). These achievements are a matter of national pride.

Globally, the nuclear power capacity is fast expanding. It is important to note that Pakistan has also achieved excellence in operating safe and secure nuclear energy plants. It is evident from history, that in 1959, PAEC signed an agreement with the Canadian General Electric Company for the construction of a 137-megawatt electrical (MWe) nuclear reactor in Karachi. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plant-1 (KANUPP-1 or K-1) started commercial operations in 1972 under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) facility-specific safeguards.

Karachi was the first Pakistani city to benefit from nuclear energy after KANUPP was connected to the grid. The inauguration of K-2 and now K-3 is a milestone in Pakistan’s quest to increase the share of clean nuclear energy. Pakistan has an ambitious plan-as per Pakistan’s Nuclear Energy Vision 2050- to have 44,000-MWe nuclear energy capacity by 2050. Energy Security Plan 2005-2030, envisions additional five NPPs with a capacity of about 1,000-MWe. As per the plan, the construction sites have been already identified which will add a cumulative installed capacity of 8,800-MWe by then.

Developed states have been benefiting immensely from nuclear power. Better safety standards and practices, with the sophistication in technology, have remarkably reduced the chances of nuclear mishaps. Pakistan also follows global standards of safety procedures while operating nuclear power plants. Pakistan is also proactively engaged with the international community to promote nuclear safety and security. Civil nuclear power plants in Pakistan are under IAEA safeguards. All these efforts of expanding nuclear energy programme are in pursuit of a clean and effective option to address Pakistan’s energy deficit and meet the international community’s ambitious goal of lowering global temperatures by two degrees in the next 30 years.

Pakistan's clean history

To further secure its civil nuclear materials, Pakistan has joined the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS). Pakistan has also introduced an extensive institutional and legislative response to secure sensitive technologies and nuclear materials to implement UN Resolution 1540.

It is highly commendable that despite being embargoed under organized hypocrisy of the global nuclear order, Pakistan is one of the 30 countries that operate nuclear fuel cycles and operational power plants.

Pakistan’s clean history in utilizing the nuclear energy programme is a clear depiction of its national resolve and commitment to effective implementation of the stringent peaceful nuclear programme. Pakistan is in a position not only to use nuclear energy for its national programmes for development and progress but also can provide assistance to other countries of the region in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Lastly, a more meaningful global contribution in utilizing peaceful nuclear cooperation by Pakistan can be addressed by revisiting the double standards of various international nuclear cartels, particularly country-specific exemptions being awarded to non-NPT signatories. Such policies need to be changed to enable countries like Pakistan to realize their full potential for not only the betterment of their people but for all of humanity.

(The writer is pursuing an M.Phil degree at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Views are personal. He can be contacted at

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