Monday, January 20, 2014

Pakistan to Acquire 3 More Nuclear Plants From China

Pakistan is in talks with China to acquire three large nuclear power plants for some $13 billion. The deal is in addition to last year's agreement to build two Chinese reactors in Pakistan's southern port of Karachi.

The three Chinese reactors would likely be located in the center of the country, in Punjab province, at a site now being prepared, officials said. Two advanced 1,100-megawatt reactors from China are already due to be built near the southern port of Karachi, under a $9 billion agreement completed last year.

The China-Pakistan nuclear trade bypasses international rules against nuclear exports to countries—like Pakistan—that have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

An international body called the Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which China is a member, is supposed to bar the export of nuclear technology or fuel to countries that have not signed the NPT. Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons and isn't a signatory. Moreover, the leading scientist behind the Pakistani nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, has been involved in spreading the country's nuclear know-how to countries such as North Korea and Libya.

China says that its nuclear trade with Pakistan predates its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and is therefore protected. India is also not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty but the 2005 U.S.-India civil nuclear deal led to India being given an exemption to import nuclear materials by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

To China and Pakistan, the India-U.S. nuclear deal was discriminatory and is perceived as an atempt to prop up India against China.

Although the U.S.-India nuclear deal is about nuclear power plants, Pakistan sees it as also having military implications. The agreement allows India to source uranium on the international market, freeing up its indigenous uranium for use in its nuclear weapons program. China's unilateral trade with Pakistan provides Islamabad with similar benefits, analysts say.

Pakistan produces between 12,000 MW and 14,000 MW of electricity, while demand is at least 18,000 MW, according to the ministry of power, causing hours of power outages every day across the country. Demand is set to rise sharply with the ballooning population.

Nuclear energy provides just 750 MW of power currently, through two Chinese-built 330 MW plants at Chashma, in Punjab province, and a tiny, aged, plant outside Karachi. China is currently building two more plants of the same size at Chashma, boosting nuclear output to 1,400 MW by 2016. The plan for the future is to acquire much larger 1,100 MW plants from China, including the two new reactors for Karachi.

China is the only country willing to supply Pakistan with nuclear plants, and Pakistan is China's sole market for nuclear exports, providing an outlet for China's hopes of selling its nuclear technology more widely.

Ansar Parvez, chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, which builds and runs the country's nuclear power plants, said that the country's aim is to generate 8,800 MW of nuclear power by 2030.  That target requires Pakistan to build six to seven large nuclear power plants, including the two already scheduled for Karachi. Each such plant costs $4 billion to $4.5 billion, said Mr. Parvez. (WSJ, 1/20/2014)

No comments: