Pakistan-China collaboration on Chashma 5: the way to sustainable development

by Nazia Sheikh

Pakistan and China have agreed to spend USD 4.8 billion to build a Hualong One reactor as unit 5 of the Chashma nuclear power project in Pakistan’s city of Mianwali Punjab. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the C-5 project was signed 20th June 2023 by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the China National Nuclear Corporation Overseas Ltd (CNOS) built the country’s largest civil nuclear power station in Pakistan which is expected to cost at least $3.5 billion and provide 1,200 megawatts of electricity per day to the national grid. The C-5, nuclear power station will use Hualong One, or HPR1000, a third-generation pressurized water nuclear technology that China claims has been domestically created and has “advanced safety and foolproof security features.” Beijing has built four nuclear power plants at Chashma during the past 30 years. These plants have a total output of 1,300 megawatts, with fuel supplied by China in the form of enriched uranium.

China started helping Pakistan’s civil nuclear energy program in the late 1970s. Civil nuclear energy cooperation was fueled by economic and geostrategic concerns and began as strategic cooperation between the two nations in the 1960s.Pakistan focuses on generating energy through its nuclear power plants (NPPs), some of which include the Chasma-1 (325MW), Chasma-2 (325MW), Chasma-3 (350MW), and Chasma-4 (350MW) under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since the beginning, each of these NPPs has produced safer, more dependable, and less expensive power.

 A collaboration agreement for the development of a Hualong One reactor as Chashma Unit 5 was signed by CNNC and PAEC in November 2017. The project was initially scheduled to begin in 2021, however, it was delayed under the following government. Four CNP-300 pressurized water reactors from China, commonly known as Chasnupp, are already located at the Chashma site and were connected to the grid between 2000 and 2017.

Running a nation’s economic engine depends heavily on energy. Pakistan safeguards its economy against instability and increases its chances of economic growth the more energy it generates and uses efficiently. Thus, Pakistan may undoubtedly save more money and energy with more public knowledge and reliable NPP operation. Despite the challenging economic situation, China’s $3.48 billion investment in this project sent a strong message that Pakistan was a country in which Chinese companies and investors continued to place their trust and faith.

Over the past ten years, China and Pakistan, have significantly strengthened their defense ties, but both nations maintain that their nuclear cooperation is purely for peaceful purposes. Pakistan and IAEA representatives declare that the nation’s civilian nuclear power reactors operate following the safety standards set forth by the international watchdog. Pakistan has produced energy from nuclear-powered reactors for the past 48 years without experiencing a single accident, which demonstrates its adherence to international nuclear safety and security regulations.

Pakistan wants to add more nuclear power and alternative renewable energy sources to its overall energy mix. Pakistan plans to generate 8,800 MWe from nuclear power by 2030, which would represent 20% of Pakistan’s total energy. When the new reactor C-5 will be operational, it will boost the national grid’s capacity by 1,000 megawatts. Increasing Pakistan’s nuclear energy generation capacity and combining it with other renewable energy not only help Pakistan to resolve its energy crisis but also have a positive impact on the climate. The C-5 project’s construction would further increase Pakistan’s energy security, support Pakistan’s economic development, and improve quality of life.

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