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Very interesting insight into some of the unsung pioneers / contributors to the nuclear program.


Theoretical physicist Riazuddin died in September. Pity no one noticed.

When Riazuddin—that was his full name—died in September at age 82 in Islamabad, international science organizations extolled his contributions to high-energy physics. But in Pakistan, except for a few newspaper lines and a small reference held a month later at Quaid-e-Azam University, where he had taught for decades, his passing was little noticed. In fact, very few Pakistanis have heard of the self-effacing and modest scientist who drove the early design and development of Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Riazuddin never laid any claim to fathering the bomb—a job that requires the efforts of many—and after setting the nuclear ball rolling, he stepped aside. But without his theoretical work, Pakistan’s much celebrated bomb makers, who knew little of the sophisticated physics critically needed to understand a fission explosion, would have been shooting in the dark.

A bomb maker and peacenik, conformist and rebel, quiet but firm, religious yet liberal, Riazuddin was one of a kind. Mentored by Dr. Abdus Salam, his seminal role in designing the bomb is known to none except a select few.

Spurred By Salam

Born in 1930, Riazuddin and his twin brother, Fayyazuddin, were often mistaken for each other. Like other lower middle class Muslim children living in religiously divided Ludhiana, they attended the Islamia High School run by the Anjuman-i-Islamia philanthropy. The school had no notable alumni, and was similar to the town’s single public and two Hindu-run schools. Nothing suggested that these two boys squatting on floor mats, laboriously writing Urdu alphabets on wooden tablets, were to become anything special.

In March 1947, as the creation of Pakistan from India drew close, communal riots engulfed the Punjab. Neighbor turned against neighbor; the soil was drenched with blood as entire populations migrated from one side to the other. Riazuddin’s family entered Pakistan from the Wagah border in early October. The brothers enrolled at Lahore’s MAO College but soon moved to Government College, where they performed well but not spectacularly so. A teacher suggested that Riazuddin study physics rather than engineering. Riazuddin agreed, and Fayyazuddin followed.

This rather uninteresting situation changed dramatically in 1951 when Salam came to town. Then 25, Salam was a rising star in the world of high-brow physics having just solved an important problem in quantum field theory, a newly emerging subject that was beyond the comprehension of all but the top-ranking physicists of the time. For his research on “overlapping divergences,” Salam was awarded the Adams Prize and offered a professorship at Cambridge University. He declined the offer and signed up instead as a professor of mathematics at Government College.

In Lahore, one of Salam’s first initiatives was to introduce a course in quantum mechanics at Punjab University. Drawn by his reputation, students flocked to it; but only Riazuddin and Fayyazuddin could survive the tough mathematics involved. A disheartened Salam never taught the course again. But he had already identified the twins to be the best and brightest of those he encountered. Riazuddin was later invited to become his Ph.D. student at Cambridge. Helped by Salam, Fayyazuddin went to Imperial College London a couple of years later.

The rest is history. As a student at MIT in the 1970s, I would sometimes be asked by my professors if I knew Riazuddin, to which I replied yes with some pride. His Ph.D. thesis in 1958 on certain regularities underlying nuclear forces had been noticed as a piece of important work, but his subsequent works elevated him to the ranks of the world’s better known physicists. His 1968 book, Theory of Weak Interactions in Particle Physics, coauthored with C. P. Ryan and Robert E. Marshak, became a bible for physicists.

Another exceptionally important piece of work by Riazuddin was done together with Fayyazuddin, who became a prominent physicist in his own right. This work became widely known in physics literature as the Kawarabayashi-Suzuki-Riazuddin-Fayyazuddin Relation. The Pakistani and Japanese authors had done their respective work separately. Kawarabayashi and Suzuki acknowledged that they only became aware of Riazuddin and Fayyazuddin’s work after they had completed their own. The Relation has stood the test of experiment, but even today continues to tantalize physicists—because it works so much better than it really should.

Atomic Enterprise

The story of Pakistan’s bomb, at the least its early beginnings, is well known by now. In the aftermath of Pakistan’s humiliating defeat in December 1971, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto convened a meeting in Multan on Jan. 20, 1972, to which the country’s preeminent scientists were invited. Bhutto exhorted them to make an atomic bomb, a desire he had first articulated in 1965. Now, it would be a means of avenging national humiliation. I. H. Usmani, then chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, opined that making the bomb was beyond Pakistan’s reach. Bhutto did not want to hear that. Usmani was unceremoniously replaced by Munir Ahmad Khan, an ambitious young engineer with more diplomatic and personal skills than engineering or scientific expertise.

Usmani’s apprehension was reasonable. In 1972, the atomic bomb appeared well out of Pakistan’s reach. Creating the weapons that laid Hiroshima and Nagasaki to waste had required enormous effort and resources. The Manhattan Project, with its secret beginning in 1939, eventually employed nearly 130,000 people and cost about $26 billion. Some of the finest minds in physics gave their undivided attention to splitting the atom and, in the process, generated new technologies and scientific ideas. Even if Pakistan could somehow marshal the physical resources, how on earth could it get the required intellectual resources?

Time was on Pakistan’s side. Every passing year was putting the bomb within the grasp of more and more nations. Once concealed under multiple layers of secrecy, the science behind the bomb slowly started to make its way out into the open in scientific literature. By the 1970s an enormous amount of such information was accessible; and physicists with sufficient breadth of understanding could do the job.

When Pakistan exploded its bomb in 1998, Riazuddin was pleased but not joyous.

Riazuddin, who was then Pakistan’s leading physicist, was abroad pursuing a scientific collaboration at the time of the Multan meeting. But his twin, Fayyazuddin, was present on the occasion. He shared with me his recollections of Multan: Bhutto’s call to action was not as emotive as were his public speeches. But, he recalled with some amusement, how the assembled scientists sought to outbid each other as though at an auction. Tumbling over one another, each rose to declare that he could make the bomb even faster than the last speaker. At that time none had any idea of what this work entailed. A professor of experimental physics at Government College, Rafi Chaudhry, emphatically claimed that only experimental physicists could make the bomb. To this, Salam—who was there at Bhutto’s special invitation—responded by saying that the nuclear programs of the U.S., Britain, India, and other countries had all been headed by theoretical physicists.

Soon thereafter, perhaps around September 1972, Salam summoned Riazuddin to his office at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. He had decided that Riazuddin was to design the bomb and, immediately upon his return to Islamabad, must create a group of theoretical physicists who would explore various technical aspects: the conceptual design for a nuclear device, calculation of the critical size of the fissile core, working out of a triggering mechanism, and finding the explosive yield for a variety of theoretical designs. Salam had already discussed the matter with Munir Ahmad Khan, with whom he had a warm relationship. Riazuddin should be given this task, Salam said. Khan agreed; and Riazuddin dutifully complied.

Riazuddin set about his assigned task by scouring available literature. He first went through the declassified Manhattan Project report. His scientific visits to the U.S. became more frequent. In 1973, he patiently studied documents at the Library of Congress, and purchased photocopies of a substantial number of unclassified or declassified reports from the Technical Information Service in Virginia. Of particular value was a series of lectures, declassified in 1965, delivered by nuclear physicist Robert Serber. The primer, addressed to members of the Los Alamos Laboratory, proved immensely valuable. While it did not contain detailed, classified information, it laid out all the conceptual issues and turned out to be an excellent starting point for Pakistan’s novice bomb designers. The total cost was only a few hundred dollars.

Armed with his recent findings, Riazuddin returned to brainstorm in 1973 with his colleagues at Islamabad University (later renamed Quaid-e-Azam University). By this time I was a junior faculty member there. The rest of us were dimly aware that something big was going on. We knew that the university was being used as a front organization for buying banned equipment. But it took decades for the whole truth to emerge.

From Riazuddin’s group, even those physicists who were in the know slowly dropped out. Fayyazuddin was not interested but Masud Ahmad, who had just obtained his Ph.D. in physics under the twins, became the second member of Riazuddin’s team. He went on to head a much bigger group eventually and was decorated with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz after the 1998 nuclear tests. The third member was Tufail Naseem, who assisted in programming the huge IBM360 located in the mathematics building.

The calculations Riazuddin carried out were tedious and complex. The plutonium route had been closed for now and Munir Ahmad Khan had tasked him with the following problem: his bomb must use the absolute minimum amount of highly-enriched uranium, and certainly no more than 20 kilograms. As a particle physicist he had a reasonable understanding of nuclear physics, but knew no hydrodynamics or how matter behaved under extreme compression. This knowledge is crucial for designing an implosion bomb because the high explosive surrounding the bomb’s core creates a shockwave that makes jelly out of even the toughest metal. These unfamiliar things had to be learned from books and papers. Like any good theoretical physicist, Riazuddin refused to accept what the computer churned out until he could verify it by using some clever analytical techniques.

Kicking the Closet

Pakistan’s successful nuclear tests of May 1998 were the joint result of many who worked on its myriad aspects—mining, conversion of uranium to uranium hexafluoride gas, enrichment, metallization, explosives, device fabrication, testing equipment, etc. But everything really starts with the design, the very first step of any complex project.

Arguably, the Chinese bomb design that Pakistan received sometime in the 1980s—and which the Americans say had been passed on by Dr. A. Q. Khan to the Libyans and Iranians—made the work easier. I do not think the Americans are lying when they say they confiscated the detailed bomb drawings in 2004 together with other nuclear materials from the ship BBC Cargo. In fact, around 1994 or 1995, Munir Ahmad Khan whispered to me confidentially, while we sipped tea in his drawing room, that the Americans had angrily told him that Pakistan possessed detailed Chinese blueprints and drawings. But even these drawings would have been nearly useless without a sound understanding of the underlying theory. The Libyans, given the same drawings, could do nothing with them. Moreover, tuning weapons for different yields or exploring different warhead options without sound theoretical physics would have been impossible.

Pakistan erupted in mass jubilation on May 28, 1998—the day the bomb came out of the nuclear closet. Pakistani videos and TV programs of the time show Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulating cheering citizens. The euphoric press compared this historic moment with the birth of Pakistan in 1947. Pakistan’s bomb makers became national heroes. School children were handed free badges with mushroom clouds, poetry competitions around the bomb were organized, and bomb and missile replicas were planted in cities up and down the land (most of these replicas were removed during the Musharraf years). The bomb had attained mythical status; it became an article of faith for the guarantee of national security into perpetuity.

Riazuddin was pleased but not joyous. He accepted quiet congratulations from his former colleagues, with whom he had ceased to have a working relationship many years ago, and he also accepted a high government award, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz. For Riazuddin, the bomb was a necessary evil, and a cause for worry. Pakistan and India were heading toward a debilitating and dangerous arms race. What could be done about it?

Some weeks after the 1998 tests, Riazuddin wrote to Sharif pleading that Pakistan should now sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. The first would prohibit more test explosions, which in any case were not essential, while the second would limit the size of the nuclear arsenal and prevent a sharp upward spiral in warhead numbers, costs, and dangers. As quid pro quo, he said, Pakistan should insist on nuclear-power technology transfer from the West. He received no reply. Quite possibly Sharif did not know how much the bomb owed to Riazuddin.

Nuclear Burden


Riazuddin and Dr. Abdus Salam. Courtesy of Fayyazuddin

Many Pakistanis think that Salam was opposed to making the bomb. Some say he played no role in it. This is wrong—he did want Pakistan to have the bomb, but felt that he had more important things to do than work out its minute details. The job of theoretical physicists like Salam is to uncover nature’s secrets at the very deepest level; they think that applications of such discoveries, if any, matter less. Even if they had not developed the world’s first atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, Hans Bethe, and Enrico Fermi would still have been enshrined in the history of physics for discovering fundamental principles.

Information from multiple sources suggests to me that Salam did not do any bomb calculations himself. As a frontrunner in the world of physics, he was after bigger fish, not merely retracing the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors. And so he tasked his student, Riazuddin, with setting up a group of theoretical physicists. Although he lost power and influence in Pakistan after 1974, Salam continued to favor the bomb and to strongly push for its development. Those involved in bomb-design calculations were frequently invited to Trieste to use its ample library facilities. Earlier, Salam had advised the PAEC to purchase a plutonium reprocessing plant from France. That deal fell through after the Indian tests of 1974 and the growing suspicion that Pakistan would travel India’s route.

Riazuddin recalls that around December 1973 he had accompanied Salam and Munir Ahmad Khan to the Wah Explosive Factory and met its head, Lt. Gen. Qamar Ali Mirza. He saw TNT for the first time, and recognized from the Manhattan Project report that an explosive called Composition B was used. The Directorate of Technical Development group, created by Munir Ahmad Khan, and later headed by Riazuddin, carried out experimental work on the high explosives needed for triggering implosion, explosive lenses, fast detonators, as well as on the necessary neutronics and electronics.

Riazuddin was gentle and unassuming, the sort who couldn’t hurt a fly. So what made him go for designing nuclear weapons, each of which could easily snuff out a hundred thousand lives? Was he like Oppenheimer, who had felt uncomfortable after Hiroshima and subsequently refused to work on the bomb?

I do not think so. Apart from the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Riazuddin accepted various government awards given to him by the government for his “services to the nation,” a euphemism for his bomb work. His unpublished notes, which I have seen, also do not reveal regret; in fact, these exhibit some measure of satisfaction over having done the job right. His mentor and ideal, Salam, was a very different personality. Unlike Riazuddin, he was articulate, assertive, and fully capable of defending his turf. Two very different people agreed that the bomb must be built. Why?

One can only guess at the motivations: it is generally true that scientists who participate in defense-related work achieve positions of much greater importance and wield much clout. (Certainly, Oppenheimer and Teller were the most sought after scientists in their days. Salam also admired Homi Jehangir Bhabha, a fine physicist and fierce nationalist who was the force behind India’s nuclear program.) In those days one could be an Ahmadi and a Pakistani nationalist, and Salam was both. He bought into the idea of rapidly modernizing the nation under Gen. Ayub Khan, becoming the government’s science adviser.

Riazuddin was accused of being an Ahmadi. Why else was he so close to Salam?

It is interesting to compare the attitudes of Pakistan’s various bomb makers. Dr. A. Q. Khan and Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Pakistan’s much celebrated scientists, frequently articulate in public their strong, visceral anti-Hindu feelings. This can perhaps be understood from the gut-wrenching partition of India, when Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims mass-slaughtered each other. On the other hand, Salam and Riazuddin never exhibited such hatreds—even though Jhang, Salam’s birthplace, and Ludhiana, Riazuddin and Fayyazuddin’s birthplace, had seen some of the worst atrocities. Was their attitude different from that of other nuclear scientists because of their exposure to the wider world of science?

Salam coauthored works with several scientists who were Hindu. While in Italy, one of his most productive scientific collaborations was with Jogesh C. Pati of the University of Maryland, resulting in the famous Pati-Salam Model for proton decay. When Salam received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1979, India immediately conferred on him a national award. (I suspect few of Salam’s Indian colleagues knew of his nuclear past.) Pakistan’s then-president Gen. Zia-ul-Haq would grudgingly honor him a year later.

That Salam eventually distanced himself from Pakistan’s nuclear program is no mystery. He had no option. Parliament’s 1974 decision to declare Ahmadis heretics was a sharp turning point for him and his community. Every religious minority in Pakistan is hounded and harassed, but none is more relentlessly persecuted than the Ahmadis. In retrospect, they had erred fatally by raising the demand for Pakistan.

The older Salam was a different Salam. Although I had met him a few times beginning in 1971, it wasn’t until 1984 that we actually engaged. On the one hand, he had grown more attached to his faith, a fact that led to some tension in our conversations during my visits to Trieste; on the other, he became more inclined toward advocating world peace, disarmament, and turning “swords into ploughshares.” By the late 1980s, I think he would have preferred to forget his initial contributions to the bomb.

Riazuddin was not an Ahmadi, but was accused of being one—a well-tested and easy way for jealous detractors to defame and endanger a rival. Why else, they argued, was he so close to Salam? Riazuddin shrugged off the allegation. But his world, like Salam’s, had also opened wide through international travels. Riazuddin’s scientific collaborators were many—American, British, Italian, and Indian. This stands in sharp contrast with A. Q. Khan and Mubarakmand, neither of whom had Indian collaborators. Their work, although also essential for bomb making, was entirely concentrated on the engineering and managerial aspects.

Quiet Rebel

By nature a conformist rather than a dissident, Riazuddin was a religious man who said his prayers five times a day. His instincts were to agree and obey rather than argue. But he was also a technology enthusiast. His expectation, which seemed a tad unrealistic to me, was that the advanced technology demanded by the bomb would automatically usher in a new technological age for Pakistan and strongly boost local research and development. To his chagrin, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, even components that could be made locally were imported and reverse engineering was rewarded. Worse, undocumented financial transactions led to massive corruption within the nuclear establishment. His bomb-related budget in the 1970s had been just a few thousand dollars, of which he had to give complete accounts to the PAEC. But later, undocumented millions would be spent without a trace.

Clashes with the establishment became frequent after Riazuddin became director of the National Center for Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University. He sought to make the center a nucleus for Pakistani and international scientists. It would, he hoped, provide intellectual leadership, have an open atmosphere, and would be closely modeled along the lines of Salam’s center in Trieste. But, with real controls resting elsewhere, the center eventually became a mere appendage of the national-security establishment, staffed by retired colonels and brigadiers, and forced to bow to their pressures. Not unexpectedly, its role in nurturing physics has been minimal.

Crisis followed crisis. One of particular seriousness involved me as well. In 2006, for unclear reasons, Riazuddin’s bosses took fancy to a particular kind of machine known as a Van de Graaf accelerator or Pelletron. This had been used in the early days of nuclear research and, although it had doubtful research utility, came with a hefty price tag of over Rs. 400 million. They decided to extract this sum from the Higher Education Commission, which was then flush. Upon reading in the newspapers that this albatross was purchased in the name of my department, I immediately protested with HEC’s top management, who defended the plan and told me that Riazuddin had signed off on the proposal. Horrified, I called Riazuddin. He admitted that he had succumbed to pressure “from above.”

But to his credit Riazuddin decided then to stand up and fight to prevent the import of a useless piece of costly junk. The peeved czars of the nuclear establishment brought in their troops—nearly 150 technical personnel from the PAEC, Kahuta Research Laboratory, and the National Engineering and Scientific Commission filled the auditorium of the physics department of Quaid-e-Azam University in 2007. None among them knew anything about the scientific purposes of the Pelletron, nor cared. They came solely with instructions to abuse and insult Riazuddin and myself, often using crude language. The short of it: the Pelletron was imported and installed. It stands at the center as a monument to shortsightedness and willful wastage, with no significant scientific output. A second one, installed at Government College, Lahore, saw a similar fate. Riazuddin paid the price for his dissidence: he lost his job.

A quintessential scientist who patiently worked on his calculations until almost the very end, Riazuddin published his last physics research paper in 2013—a remarkable feat for an 82-year-old. For one who had helped set Pakistan on its nuclear path, the farewell Riazuddin got from a bomb-loving nation was surprisingly low key. The country’s powerful nuclear and security establishment was clearly not willing to celebrate a man who had rebelled against it.

Dr. Hoodbhoy is the Zohra and Z. Z. Ahmed distinguished professor of physics and mathematics at Forman Christian College University, Lahore. From our Dec. 7, 2013, issue.

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Muzaffargarh, Ahmadpur East selected for new N-power plants
Pakistan’s access to civilian nuclear technology is restricted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for not being a NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) member. — File Photo
2014-01-03 07:10:35
CHASHMA: Muzaffargarh and Ahmadpur East have been selected as sites for new nuclear power plants, according to PAEC Chairman Dr Ansar Parvez.
He was speaking at the ‘dome-laying ceremony’ of the fourth 340mw unit at the Chashma Nuclear Power Complex (also known as Chashma-IV) on Thursday that marked the completion of civil works at the unit and would be followed by installation of a reactor.
Of the three sites proposed by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to the government for new plants, Muzaffargarh and Ahmadpur East have been cleared by the Central Development Working Party, the technical forum for vetting development projects.
The PAEC chairman said that PC-1s for acquisition of land in Muzaffargarh and Ahmadpur East would soon be presented before Ecnec (Executive Committee of the National Economic Council), the supreme policy-making and project-approving body.
Both the sites would be having multiple 1,100mw nuclear power generation units.
“Nuclear power has taken firm footing and would help alleviate energy crisis in the country,” he said.
Chashma-IV is said to be ahead of the schedule by about four months and would become operational in 2016 along with another unit of equal capacity that is being installed at the same venue — Chashma-III.
Chashma-III and Chashma-IV are the last of the 340mw plants being installed in the country which is now moving towards large-scale units.
Groundbreaking of the first two of 1,100mw was performed in Karachi in November.
Meanwhile, the 125mw Kanupp-I in Karachi, established in 1972, is expected to be phased out by 2019-2020 when first 1,100mw will become operational.
The government has decided to aggressively pursue the nuclear energy option to meet energy needs. Its plans include installation of seven 1,100mw plants in next 10 years to achieve the target of 8,800mw by 2030.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, who was chief guest at the ceremony, said that the country’s reliance on nuclear power would grow. He called upon the world to cooperate with Pakistan to make it able to achieve its target.
Mr Ahsan said that being a responsible country that had a history of safe operation of nuclear plants Pakistan had the right to civilian nuclear energy.
Pakistan’s access to civilian nuclear technology is restricted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for not being a NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) member.
Islamabad considers this treatment as discriminatory because India, another non-NPT member, has been given exemption by the NSG.
China has, however, ignored the international pressure and continued to support Pakistan’s quest for nuclear energy.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said a day earlier that Pakistan and China had signed $6.5 billion loan for civilian nuclear energy projects.
Head of Chinese delegation Mr Li Ji Ze, a senior executive of China National Nuclear Corporation, while speaking on the occasion said that the Pak-China civilian nuclear cooperation had strengthened the strategic ties between the two countries.
This relationship, he said, was marked by sincerity.

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Looks like the Karachi Nuke plants will be facing stiff PPP resistance:


Vision for 2025: Sindh opposes plan to set up nuclear power plants


Although I believe that there are many environmental concerns related to nuclear power, specially when near a mega-city, but the Sindh governments opposition seems more of point scoring then genuine concern, similar to Bilawal Zardaris anti-privatisation rants.

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There are hardly any environmental issues with having nuclear power plants if set up close to Karachi. If compared to a Dam like  Kalabagh dam , its impact on environment is negligible . also Karachi coastline is low earthquake zone with very little risks of Tsunami (Real Tsunami  rather than Taliban khan one) . 

Key issue is political and ethnic line of thinking .

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The harsh approach would be no nuclear plant no power, to Karachi... or expect load shedding to continue unabated. If possible distribute the power generated elsewhere.


Similar approach should be used where you have opposition in building a dam. No dam, then in case of flooding expect no help from the government...


In development, it will have to be a case of using the danda...

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Pakistan’s energy security
By Zahir Kazmi
Published: January 7, 2014
The writer is a visiting faculty member at the School of Politics & International Relations, Quaid-e-Azam University
Energy shortages are driving Pakistanis to an edge and are exacerbating their economic insecurities as well. At places, people have taken to the streets for want of gas. Can these concerns be alleviated by an uninterrupted availability of inexpensive energy sources? Nuclear energy is affordable, whereas other sources are swiftly becoming either financially or politically unfeasible. A good recipe that comprises a mix of resources can enhance Pakistan’s energy security. There is lots of criticism about the decision to construct two 2,200MW nuclear power plants (NPP) on Karachi’s coastline by 2019. Interestingly, these anxieties have been offered sans solutions. In November last year, Nawaz Sharif had announced that his administration has envisioned that nuclear energy will add 40,000MW to the national grid by the year 2050 at an affordable cost. What role will nuclear power generation play in Pakistan’s energy mix?
Pakistan has an installed electricity generation capacity of 22,797MW. The average demand is 17,000MW and the shortfall is between 4,000 and 5,000MW. Oil (35.2 per cent), hydel (29.9 per cent), gas (29 per cent), and nuclear and imported (5.8 per cent) are the principal sources. In the next 10 years, peak electricity demand is expected to rise by four to five per cent, which is roughly 1,500MW.
This dismal forecast is due to a lopsided energy mix, diminishing indigenous fuel reserves, increasing circular debt and transmission hold-ups. Pakistan has almost exhausted its gas reserves. Imported oil’s price hikes affect the budget and its constant supply cannot be guaranteed. Pakistan has the potential to meet these energy challenges through hydel power but there are political and environmental issues in building dams. Rationality demands reducing reliance on oil and going for alternatives. The development of alternatives does not happen overnight. Pakistan will have to rely on imported fuels for the interim period at a huge cost. LNG is difficult to import, using coal has environmental issues, using shale gas also has environmental issues attached with it, and wind power has transmission network challenges.
Nuclear energy seems the best option for Pakistan because the cost of oil-based generation, other alternatives and their indigenisation is pretty high. The nuclear reactors that are being constructed in Karachi are called Advance China Pressurised–1000 reactors and are the latest technology over which China has complete intellectual property rights. These reactors are often confused with Chinese CPR-1000 design that is an advanced version of French M-310 technology. China also has complete intellectual property rights for that technology. It’s a global norm that nuclear reactors are released for sale only after passing through several developmental stages. Like any other industry, there is always a first buyer and here Pakistan is no exception. Besides this, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) watchful eyes do not compromise on design and safeguards standards. International practices show that the close proximity of reactors to Karachi should not be of great concern. Sixty-five out of 104 reactors in the US are within a 10-50 miles vicinity of densely populated states like New York. Despite the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979, those ageing American reactors pose no safety concerns. It has been internationally accepted that NPPs are more environment-friendly compared with fossil fuel-based plants. Industrialisation has its hazards — even dams have environmental issues — but the fact remains that NPPs provide clean and uninterrupted power supply at a competitive cost.
The two reactors have a reported US$9.1 billion capital cost, which is expensive indeed. However, these will be cheaper in the long-term due to affordable power generation cost. China is not only providing the NPP technology; unlike other suppliers, it is reportedly offering 82 per cent of the financing as well. The current energy basket rate for electricity generation in Pakistan is around Rs12.3/KWHr, which is calculated by taking a mean of the cost of electricity from all sources. In that sense, NPPs with a levelised cost of electricity in the range of Rs5-8/KWHr is worthwhile.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 cast a dark spell on the use of nuclear energy — but for a short while. Japan had abandoned its reliance on nuclear energy but has recently reverted its stance. The Fukushima disaster was not due to technical failures or inadequate safety features. An unparalleled tsunami completely swamped the back-up power for cooling the plants. China has offered cutting edge technology with the latest safety and design features. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the IAEA remain actively involved in selecting the sites for the new reactors and a thorough survey has been done in this regard.
There is a misperception that China has violated its obligations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in offering these reactors to Pakistan. It is worth noting that China is, in fact, meeting international legal obligations of a nuclear agreement that it made with Pakistan in 1986, which was before it joined the NSG in 2004. This, notwithstanding, these reactors, will be under IAEA safeguards and will produce electricity, not bombs. The criticism about these reactors is political in context. This peaceful nuclear cooperation can be considered to be an effort on Pakistan’s part to counterbalance the Indo-US nuclear deal and New Delhi’s efforts to join the NSG, which is a nuclear export control cartel. The US offered the nuclear deal to India for economic returns and also because of New Delhi’s so-called potential as a counterweight to Beijing. Pakistan’s agreement with China predates the Indo-US nuclear deal and Islamabad has no extra-regional ambitions. The Pakistan-China deal does not violate international norms but the Indo-US nuclear deal does. The US bent its domestic laws and pressurised NSG members to bend theirs for potential trade with India.
Nuclear energy is a quintessential part of Pakistan’s energy mix. Scarce hydrocarbon sources pose political, economic and environmental issues. Nuclear energy is a safe and viable alternative. Pakistan spends $1 billion in oil imports per 1,000 MW, which is not cost-effective. Nuclear energy can reduce that burden. China has shared the safest and the most cutting edge technology that will alleviate the burden on the Pakistani economy and enhance energy security — no one else has made us such an offer. Nuclear energy is an effective solution that will produce uninterrupted electricity at an affordable price. Let’s hope we overcome the simple challenge of switching on a light bulb.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2014.
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And as one could expect, Hoodbhoy is out opposing it, wonder why it took him so long...



Nuclear plans: Even a small earthquake can damage plants
By Sohail Khattak
Nuclear physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy feared that if the two nuclear plants are set up near Karachi, even a small earthquake or a terrorist activity can damage the reactors. 

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Karachiites face more immediate threats to their wellbeing (read: pollution in the air and water, mutant rats, large cats/micro-lions, thieves, etc) than these nuclear power plants. Why don't we ask the people instead of these 'experts' who don't are speaking on their behalf from up high?

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mutant rats, large cats/micro-lions


Literal or figurative ?? if literal then i would surely wanna know more about these developments

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Literal or figurative ?? if literal then i would surely wanna know more about these developments


Literal. I was in Karachi a few years ago and we had a problem where rats were coming from the city sewage line into our house through the toilet. The lids had to be kept forcefully shut or they would open them. These suckers were strong! I cornered one and in the yard and confronted it with a cricket bat. The beast wouldn't back down. If you pit one of those against a regular cat, my money is on the rat. The cat is dead meat.

Finally some sort of toxic poison down the toilet line did the job and they stopped coming... Definitely a strong mutation worth studying; perhaps a cousin to the NYC subway rats.  

Hafeez and Khalid A. like this

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Yeah, but I've also seen feral cats that are twice as big as your standard house cat, and many times more aggressive. Whenever I saw one I made sure to avoid eye contact, I don't want one (much less a full pack) of those things chasing me.

Anyways, back to the topic.

People should stick to two options.

Either they trust PAEC enough to make sure that the reactor install is done properly such that all safety and contingency steps are taken, OR, they don't. This issue of a reactor being untested is not a firm position to be very honest. Even a mature reactor model could prove to be disastrous if the installation were done incorrectly or if safety/contingency steps aren't taken.


Pakistan has bigger problems IMHO. The more we depend on nuclear energy, the more proactive we will need to be in securing nuclear fuel. If we're talking 40 000 MW in nuclear energy by 2050 then we better have a hell of a foreign policy playbook to fuel that engine. At present there aren't many NSG countries out there willing to give us the necessary fuel and technology, we'll need to either bank on China OR open up our own sources in Africa and Central Asia. It means we need to look "outward" and aim to be a power with lots of weight and influence. We have to ask, is Pakistan on that route right now?

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Nuclear power: ‘K-2, K-3 nuclear reactors more safe than Fukushima’
By Our CorrespondentPublished: January 24, 2014
All seismic fault lines near the plants are inactive, says expert. PHOTO: FILE
KARACHI: Reactors of the Karachi nuclear power project – K-2 and K-3 – are more safe and sophisticated than those of Fukushima, said its project director Azfar Minhaj.
Minhaj and his colleagues from Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), including Scientific Information and Public Relations director Shahid Riaz Khan, were briefing the media at the PAEC Office on Thursday.
They were answering the queries of writers, civil society members and NGOs on the safety of the 2200-megawatt plants, which the government is building along the Karachi coast near the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant.
In his presentation, Minhaj said that they have conducted many studies of the site to ensure that the plants could survive the largest earthquake and tsunami that can be expected in the region. “The highest tsunami height expected in Karachi is about 2.8 metres above sea level, while the K-2 and K-3 ground level is 12 metre above the mean sea level,” he said, adding that they have collected all the instrumental, historical data of earthquakes in the history of Karachi.
They have also examined the ground but there is no history of major earthquakes in Karachi. He said that all seismic fault lines near the plants are inactive. “We have hypothetically assumed a 602-kilometre fault line near the city. If it gets ruptured, it will not affect the plant,” he said.
“Our plant is at 12-metre height and our electricity generation sources are at elevated levels. We have the mobile diesel electric generator ready and the plants have the passive emergency power supply and cooling water systems for 72 hours. In case of water storages, we can use fire water tanks for cooling.”
According to Minhaj, the ‘ACP1000’ system proposed for the K-2 and K-3 plants, which is a third generation reactor with enhanced security measures and capabilities, is safer and more sophisticated than the Fukushima. The ACP1000 is a ‘Pressurised Water Reactor’ and has been used in the nuclear industry for the past five decades. He said that China is constructing 29 nuclear power plants in its country and the plant at Chashma is imported from China and has been working efficiently for the past 14 years.
China has also provided loans for Chashma plants. For the K-2 and K-3, it is providing $6.5 billion loan on soft terms.
Minhaj refuted the claim that the whole city would have to be evacuated in case of an accident or a complete meltdown of the plants. According to him, in the case of an accident, the population within the five-kilometre radius will be evacuated and they have prepared plans for it.
“We will extend the evacuation plan till 15-kilometre radius which covers the area till Gulbai and population up to 100,000.” He also said that they have sufficient stalk potassium iodide tablets for the population in case of an emergency. “Pakistan Army, provincial and national disasters management authorities and local administration and traffic police are in loop in case of emergency evacuation. We have made our plans according to our own census and survey in the area.” He added that locality near the plant is thinly populated and the PAEC has acquired a land within 1.5 kilometre radius to halt any construction there.
The plants are resistant to terrorist attacks and designed to take a commercial plane crash without letting it to penetrate through. “The plant has double-shell containment. Its outer shell is strong enough to stop attacks like 9/11,” he said, adding that they have strong physical security system more secure than that of the General Headquarters and guarded by 920 officials.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2014.
Read more: Karachi

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Pakistan, Sri Lanka sign nuclear agreement
By Web Desk / Abdul Manan / AFP Published: April 6, 2015
Sri Lanka and Pakistan signed six agreements, including one on atomic energy, on Monday, the two countries’ leaders said, as the strategically important island looks to build its first nuclear plant.
Details of the agreement were not immediately available but it comes after Sri Lanka signed a pact with India in February to build its atomic energy infrastructure, including training of personnel.
Sri Lanka’s new president Maithripala Sirisena swept to power in January, ending a decade of rule by Mahinda Rajapakse, and has moved to reduce China’s influence in his country, which had irked India.
The Sri Lankan president elaborated the agreements pertained to enhance economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.
“The agreements pertain to advancing cooperation in disaster management, sports, shipping, socio-economic development, education and narcotics control,” he said.
The six MoUs signed are as follows:
1) Cooperation between Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka
2) Agreement on cooperation against illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
3) Academic cooperation agreement on exchange and collaboration between National Defence University of Pakistan and Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies of Sri Lanka
4) Collaboration in the field of Sports
5) Mutual cooperation in shipping business between Pakistan National Shipping Corporation(PNSC) and the Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ltd (CSCL)
6) Cooperation on disaster management
Speaking at a press conference with  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sirisena said, “At critical moments in our post-independent histories we have stood in solidarity with each other,” adding he was “profoundly grateful for the strong support in the fight against terrorism” by Pakistan.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka have traditionally enjoyed strong ties, particularly over defence, with Islamabad providing military assistance during the war against Tamil Tiger guerrillas that ended in 2009.
Pakistan currently has three operational nuclear plants generating a total of around 740 MW of power and has begun work on two more, including a 2,200-megawatt station to be built with Chinese technical assistance on the Arabian Sea coast at Paradise Beach, 40 kilometres west of Karachi.
Earlier PM Nawaz had spoken of his desire to improve trade and economic relations.
Sirisena will also meet Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain during his visit and is due to leave Tuesday.
The Sri Lankan president arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a three-day state visit and was given a red carpet welcome at the PM House.
A guard of honour was presented to him and the national anthems of both the countries were also played on the occasion.
Read: Sri Lankan president to arrive in Pakistan on April 5 for first state visit
The two heads of states discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields while focusing mainly on trade. Regional and international issues of mutual interest were also part of the discussions.
Read: Sri Lankan president arrives in Pakistan on three-day state visit
This is Sirisena’s first visit to Pakistan since becoming the newly elected president of Sri Lanka.

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Significant cut in atomic energy development budget
Kalbe Ali

Updated about 7 hours ago

ISLAMABAD: The budget for the development of nuclear energy in the country for 2017-18 has declined by almost 47 per cent against the expenditure incurred in the outgoing fiscal year.

Documents show that the development budget of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) for the coming year is significantly lower than the outgoing year.

However, in view of vulnerabilities against cyber threats and for enforcing digitised controls, a new project worth Rs35 million has been initiated for the PNRA.

The development budget for the PAEC in the coming year is Rs15.08 billion, whereas the commission has spent Rs28.6bn in the outgoing fiscal. However, of the spending, foreign loans accounted for Rs17.56bn, mainly from China for setting up the Chashma Nuclear Power Plants III and IV.


For the coming year, Rs7.11bn has been allocated for these nuclear power projects, of which Rs6.95bn will be foreign loans.

In the budget, Rs136.64m has been allocated for uranium exploration in Dera Ghazi Khan. The project is nearing completion and the expenditure on it in 2016-17 was Rs475.95m.

Another Rs650m has been allocated for a uranium mining project in Karak where Rs1.75bn has already been spent.

Allocations for other key development projects of the PAEC include Rs118.2m for a seamless tube plant and Rs689.14m for a chemical processing plant in Mianwali, Rs212.9m for upgrading the laboratories of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology and Rs288m for a nuclear fuel enrichment plant.

An amount of Rs460m has been allocated for equipment for five PAEC cancer hospitals.

The new projects of the PAEC for the coming year include the Gilgit Institute of Nuclear Medicine, Oncology and Radiotherapy, which has been allocated Rs850m.

In addition, Rs1.2bn has been allocated for upgrading the Atomic Energy Cancer Hospital and Rs300m for the National Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Islamabad, Rs500m for the Gujranwala Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy and Rs100m for the Nuclear Institute of Agriculture in Tando Jam.

Among other new projects are detailed exploration of uranium resources in Bannu basin and Kohat plateau at a cost of Rs230m and site studies for development of nuclear power plants Rs250m, in addition to several other schemes worth Rs500m.

The PNRA’s development budget is Rs321.53m, whereas it spent Rs548.03m on various projects during the outgoing fiscal.

The major expenditure of the authority in 2016-17 was on setting up the PNRA residential colony in Chashma at a cost of Rs345m.

The authority will spend Rs180m for establishing the National Radiological Emergency Coordination Centre.

According to the budget documents, Rs50m has been allocated for capacity building of the PNRA in design assessment and analysis of advance nuclear power plants.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2017

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