“Pakistan should not wait for another 30 years to have another [nuclear] plant,” said Dr Ishfaq Ahmed, chairman of the country’s Atomic Energy Commission. “The government is very keen and we hope we will have a third nuclear plant very soon.” Ahmed was speaking on 29 March at the inauguration ceremony for Chasma, a 325 MWe plant supplied by China, and he said he hoped the two countries could also collaborate on another plant.
Work commenced on the Chasma plant in 1992 and it started up in September 2000. It is already supplying electricity to the Water and Power Development Authority, which runs Pakistan’s electricity grid.
Chasma is based on the Qinshan 1 plant in China, which was designed by Chinese engineers and based on western PWR designs. Qinshan 1 went into commercial operation in 1994. Chasma differs from its Chinese reference plant in that the reactor pressure vessel was manufactured by a Chinese company. The pressure vessels at Qinshan 1 and at units 2 and 3 (now under construction) were supplied by Mitsubishi of Japan, but Pakistan’s status outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty meant that China had to supply the pressure vessel along with the rest of the unit.
Pakistan’s first nuclear unit, a PHWR near Karachi (known as Kanupp), was completed at the start of the 1970s and was supplied by Canada, but that country stopped its co-operation with Pakistan over non-proliferation concerns soon afterwards. It was not until the late 1990s that Pakistan’s nuclear isolation was lifted somewhat, when Canada decided it could provide help in assuring safety – although not improving performance – at Kanupp.
Ahmed referred to Kanupp in his address and said that Pakistan planned to develop its own expertise in developing nuclear reactor technology. But first, he said, “we have to see the Chasma plant stabilising power generation, and economic turnaround in the country.”