Groundbreaking ceremony for Pakistan’s Chashma 5

18 July 2023

The groundbreaking ceremony has taken place at Mianwali in Punjab for unit 5 of Pakistan’s Chashma NPP (C-5) attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Chinese Charge D’Affaires Pang Chunxue, federal ministers and other officials. This is the third 1,200 MWe Chinese designed Hualong One plant to be exported to Pakistan. The plant is expected to be completed in 7-8 years.

Addressing the ceremony, Sharif commented that the “risk of potential default has been completely averted”. The event followed Pakistan's signing of a $4.8bn agreement with China in June to build the plant. The agreement, announced by Sharif, who became prime minister last year, ended a long delay for the project originally planned to start around 2021. In January the project had faced difficulties because of the reported refusal by the Ministry of Finance to offer a sovereign guarantee.

Sharif referred to fabricated rumours that Pakistan would default on its sovereign payments and that the economy could collapse. “I’m not going into that,” he said. “You know it very well that we crossed very turbulent waters in the last 15 months.” However, he added: “The risk of potential default has been completely averted through team efforts – untiring efforts – from all parts of the government of Pakistan and all our institutions.”

He then mentioned approval of an IMF programme and the subsequent receipt of $4.2bn by the State Bank of Pakistan including $1.2bn from the IMF as the $3bn programme and the rest from “our brotherly countries Saudi Arabia and UAE”. He also expressed his gratitude to China for its longstanding support saying, “Unless we mention the role of our great and most trusted friend China, the story will remain incomplete.”

He noted that the “Chinese government and Chinese commercial banks had transferred to Pakistan more than $5bn in the past four months. “This is not a small contribution by a great friend at a time which was one of the most difficult Pakistan has faced.” In February, the China Development Bank had approved a $700m credit facility for Pakistan and about a month later, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd had approved rollover of a $1.3bn loan. In March, China had rolled over a $2bn loan and a further $1bn was also received in June.

Sharif especially thanked the Chinese government and companies for keeping the project cost at the level agreed upon in 2017-18 by and not adding the average inflation of around 10%, as well as giving a discount of Rs30m ($108,770), which he termed “a very kind gesture”. Concluding his address, he expressed the hope that the companies involved in the C-5 project will “team their efforts together” to complete the project soon.

CNNC noted on its website that “China and Pakistan reached a consensus on enhancing collaboration across the entire industry chain and achieving mutual benefit and win-win results”. The Chashma NPP already hosts four Chinese-supplied CNP-300 pressurised water reactors, which were connected to the grid between 2000 and 2017. In addition, two 1,161 MWe Chinese-supplied Hualong One reactors have been constructed as units 2&3 of the Karachi plant in Sindh province. Construction of unit 2 began in 2015 and unit 3 in 2016, starting commercial operation in May 2021 and April 2022.

Image: Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (centre), along with Chinese officials dig during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Chashma-5 nuclear power plant in Pakistan (courtesy of PML-N)

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