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Development of the Nuclear Power Industry in Pakistan

Adeel Khan HST 701 History of Science and Development Ryerson University June 7, 2001

Adeel Khan
Introduction

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Since the first energy crisis hit the world in 1973, there has been a desperate search for finding a solution to the problem. The developed countries have a better infrastructure and a more stable economic environment for nuclear power establishment then the developing nations. They are also mostly in a entangled in political disorder, corruption, financial turmoil or simply, all of them. The idea for the development of nuclear technology in Pakistan originated in the 1950s, and to date has been able to develop two commercial nuclear power plants along with several other nuclear-related sites. In this paper, all the details regarding the development of the nuclear industry in Pakistan will be put forth.

The need for Nuclear Technology After Pakistan lost East Pakistan (which is now Bangladesh) in a war in 1971, it also lost the perceived right to be considered India’s equal from the military viewpoint. The 1974 Indian nuclear tests further disturbed the equation. With two bitter wars against India, a third one could not be ruled out. An acute shortage of energy also compounded to the problem. Pakistan more frequently resorted to load shedding (withholding electric power for specific periods of time). Simultaneously, its major source of energy – the natural gas – was seriously depleted by excessive use, while the rate of energy consumption increased by 15% per annum. Thus, they had all the many reasons for the development of nuclear technology.1

1

Shahid Burki, Pakistan – Fifty Years of Nationhood (Colorado: Westview Press, 1999), p.207

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1955 – 1965: The origins of Nuclear establishment In 1955, a scientists committee was set up by the government to prepare a comprehensive nuclear energy scheme followed by the formation of a high-powered Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in 1956. It comprised of the following members: Nazir Ahmed (Chairman), M. Raziuddin Siddiqui (Member in charge of planning and research), Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, M.O. Ghani and M.H. Toosi.2 Nazir Ahmed was an experimental physicist who worked at the Cavendish Laboratory under Ernest Rutherford. M. Siddiqui is a mathematical physicist who had been taught by the likes of some great scientists namely, Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac, Werner Heisenberg, etc. So there were some intelligent minds to power the Pakistani campaign for nuclear production. In the first ten years of its inception, PAEC was devoted to the task of giving individuals adequate training and expertise in the usage of sophisticated equipment. Several hundred scientists and engineers were carefully selected and sent to Harewell in the United Kingdom, and the Argonne, Oakridge, and Brookhaven fin the United States, for training under the Atoms for Peace program and other such bilateral arrangements.3 After five years, PAEC acquired a research reactor with a power of 5 MW and it was installed in Islamabad.4 The Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) was built around the reactor. Since then, it has been used to for the purpose of training, research, and radioisotope production since then. The institute also set Radiation Centers in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore among others. In 1961, Abdus Salam, a physicist and Nobel Laureate for his works in the

James Katz and Onkar Marwah, Nuclear Power in Developing Countries (Toronto and Lexington: Lexington Press, 1982), p.263 3 Ibid., p.263 4 Daniel Poneman, Nuclear Power in the Developing World (London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers Ltd., 1982), p.40

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interactions in elementary particles, was appointed as an honorary scientific advisor to the commission.

1965 – 1974: Initiation of the Nuclear Power Program In 1965-1966, PAEC decided to acquire its first nuclear power reactor. Westinghouse of Canada came to the fore, after some reasonable agreements regarding credit facilities and a suitable reactor, and thus an atomic reactor of 137 MW generating capacity was set up.5 It is a heavy-water reactor and uses natural uranium as fuel. The fuel (or most of it) was being supplied by Canada. The plant also has the production facility for heavy water. It went critical in 1971 and one year later started to provide electricity to Southern Pakistan.6 Since the time of the purchase of the reactor, arrangements were being made with the manufacturers to train Pakistani personnel on the job. Thus, Pakistani engineers and scientists gradually reached a point when they exercised complete control of the facilities. During the same period a training school at the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) was also started for similar purposes. In 1971, newly elected President Zulfiqar Bhutto made several changes in the atomic commission; notable among them was the induction of I. H. Usmani, the then director of the Reactor Section at the IAEA in Vienna. Having gained confidence by the performance of the Karachi reactor PAEC forged ahead to expand its program.

5 6

James Katz and Onkar Marwah, Nuclear Power in Developing Countries, p.264 Ibid., p.264

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1974 - 1984: Establishment of the Nuclear Industry The period between 1974 and 1984 mostly saw Pakistan establish several nuclear-related sites throughout the country. Even as the governments quickly changed hands and the Pakistani rupee showed signs of weakness, development of nuclear power was seldom affected. In 1974, India confirmed its nuclear prowess by conducting a ‘peaceful’ underground nuclear test. Highly dependable multiple reports from Pakistan suggested that the process of weaponizing its nuclear technology was underway. This coupled with India’s tests were good enough reasons for the United States to impose sanctions on the two countries. Keeping in mind that Canada can anytime discontinue its nuclear-related supplies, PAEC decided to build a fuel fabrication plant at Kundian. Construction of a uranium-enrichment plant also commenced the same year.7 In 1975, PAEC decided to erect a second power plant. Construction went underway the same year and the plant was expected to generate 400 to 600 MW.8 The plant was located in Chasma, central Punjab. The plan, however, failed to materialize mainly due to inadequate funds and lack of expertise on the projects. The venture at Chasma, however, was later undertaken by China. Another setback occurred, in 1976, when Canada halted its supply of nuclear fuel for KANUPP. Even after the social chaos and economic shakiness that followed the civil war, PAEC was committed to move forward. Plans to augment nuclear fuelgeneration were not halted, though they were slowed due to renewed emphasis on self-sufficiency. The result was a major win situation. On August 31, 1980, Pakistan had joined a select list of twelve technologically advanced nations that are able to manufacture nuclear fuel from uranium. The site of the fuel-fabrication plant was Kundian. This reportedly saved the country around 2 billion rupees ($40 million)
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Andrew Koch and Jennifer Topping, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program: A Status Report”, Monterey Institute of International Studies (1999), p.3 8 Ernest Lefever, Nuclear Arms in the Third World (Washington: The Brookings Instituite, 1979), p.42

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annually,9 apart from guaranteeing fuel supply and foreign dependence on costly imported oil. The smooth fuel supply increased KANUPP’s generation from 35 MW to 90 MW.10 In 1984, the uranium-enrichment plant project was successfully completed in Kahuta. Simultaneously, the resources of A. Qayyum Khan, a German trained physicist, were rendered when Khan Research Laboratory (KRL) was installed in Kahuta to overlook the plant. In addition to Kahuta, two other smaller centrifuge facilities were ordered for construction in Golra and Silaha.11 It was planned that the Golra facility may be used to test advanced centrifuge designs before they are installed at Kahuta. There are, nevertheless, some facilities that have not been made official. There are others of whom only very limited information is available. Following is a list of them: • Unsafeguarded heavy water production facility in Multan with a capacity of 13 MT / year • The unsafeguarded Khushab reactor is reportedly also the site of a tritium production facility. The task was completed in 1987 with German assistance • A plutonium reprocessing plant at Chasma. Construction was reportedly completed in 1998 • • A Uranium Hexaflouride Conversion plant in Dera Ghazi Khan Uranium mills in three possible locations: Lahore, Dera Ghazi Khan and Issa Khel • Two Uranium mines are also said to exist in Dera Ghazi Khan and Lakki

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James Katz and Onkar Marwah, Nuclear Power in Developing Countries, p.268 Ibid. , p.268 11 Andrew Koch and Jennifer Topping, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program: A Status Report”, p.6
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The Pakistan Ordinance Factory at Wah is considered a major site for weaponization. The factory possesses expertise in fusing, high explosives, and heavy machining.12

1985 – 2000: Development of the Nuclear Industry Since 1985, after most of the nuclear facilities were installed, concentration shifted to the production side. But the onus was on weaponization rather then electrification. In the early 1980’s, multiple reports were said that Pakistan was about obtaining pre-tested bomb design from China along with bomb-grade uranium.13 In 1986, Pakistan and China signed a pact for the exchange of nuclear technology, including design, construction, and operation of reactors. This was a major event in the history of Pakistan’s nuclear expansion as China was and still is among the world leaders in this field. By 1986, KANUPP, the only commercial reactor, was providing approximately 0.5% of Pakistan’s total electric supplies.14 Earlier estimates by the IAEA and PAEC, that nuclear power would contribute to around 12% of the country’s energy needs, failed miserably. Over enthusiasm, deviation of goals and political corruption played huge roles in this failure. In 1987, the tritium plant project was completed. And in the same year A.Q. Khan stated in a public interview that the state possessed a bomb. In 1988, President Zia-ul-Haq confirmed to Khan’s testimony. In 1989, Pakistan tested Hatf-2 missile. It is capable of nuclear payload. Pakistan also reportedly configured the US-supplied F-16 aircrafts for nuclear delivery purposes. The same year it also acquired a 27-kilowatt research reactor, built with Chinese help. Close ties with China were an important reason why Pakistan was bold enough to move ahead with its nuclear plans. The relationship bore fruit in
12 13

Ibid. , p.6 Ibid. , p.8 14 Shahid Burki, Pakistan – Fifty Years of Nationhood, p.209

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1990. China finally agreed to take upon the project of designing Pakistan’s second commercial reactor at Chasma. The same year Dr. A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan's bomb, received the ‘Man of the Nation’ award. The 1990’s, however, saw an enormous slowdown in the economic, industrial and political development. This was as a result of poor governance, discrimination against the less-advantaged factions of the society and corruption were major reasons for the miserable situation the country was in. And it equally effected the nuclear industry. In 1991, the Nawaz Sharif government took a step forward towards peace when it entered into agreement with India, prohibiting the two states from attacking each other's nuclear installations. But a damning report published in 1993 by the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute, saying about 14,000 uraniumenrichment centrifuges were installed in Pakistan and German customs officials seized about 1,000 gas centrifuges bound for Pakistan, did its credibility no good.15 By the mid-1990’s Pakistan's nuclear scientists reportedly had enriched Uranium 235 to more than 90 per cent.16 In 1996, India and Pakistan exchange lists of atomic installations which each side has pledged not to attack under an over seven-year-old confidence-building agreement. Later that year, Khan Laboratory in Kahuta, purchased 5,000 ring magnets from China.17 The ring magnets would allow Pakistan to effectively double its capacity to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production. Nevertheless, 28 May 1998 was an unfortunate day for the average Pakistani when the state reacted to India’s nuclear testing. Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices at Chagai Hills, which they claimed measured up to 5.0 on the Richter scale, with a reported yield of up to 40 KT (equivalent TNT). On 30 May 1998 another
15 16

Andrew Koch and Jennifer Topping, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program: A Status Report”, p.8 Pakistan Defense, http://wahcantt.www8.50megs.com 17 Ibid

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nuclear warhead was tested, with a yield of 12 kilotons. This horrendous event caused the rupee to slide and dampened the economy even further. It was only after yet another military coup, this one under General Perveiz Musharraf, which brought some stability to the nation. On 23 March 2000 the second commercial reactor that was being built by China was finally inaugurated. The plant has a capacity of 325 MW and was erected by seven Chinese companies. Unlike many other plants, the Chasma nuclear power plant, or CANUPP, successfully generated electricity on June 13 and has been doing so ever since. After completing full power operation, the station will be formally handed over to Pakistan. The addition of the new power station has now increased the nuclear input for electricity purposes to 1%. It might be a small step but it is finally placed in the right direction. The government intends to develop the next commercial plant, without any foreign support, within the next eight years.

Comparison of sources Authors and contributors of various sources have contrasting views on some matters. Also, conflicting information of certain projects are different in different sources. This was expected because in Pakistan’s case, there is a lack of transparency and a paucity of publicly available information about its nuclear capabilities. Thus there has always been confusion regarding the existence of certain nuclear sites and the level of equipment they possess. While Nuclear Power in Developing Countries talks more about usage of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Nuclear Power in the Developing World has a more realistic approach towards the Pakistani nuclear industry. Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapon’s Program: A Status Report has been used for the purpose of updating, as it was an updated and comprehensive source of information. The source books were

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published in the 1970’s and 80’s. Surprisingly, there haven’t been many recent articles that were comprehensive about this topic. There have been conflicts regarding start and end dates, nuclear sites, and purpose of certain operations. This goes to show how much limited confirmed information is available. For instance, Nuclear Arms In The Third World insists that expansion of the atomic sector is also a result of lack of skilled personnel while Nuclear Power in Developing Countries maintains that training individuals in atomic technology have always been a priority of the government and the various atomic related agencies.

Conclusion To say that nuclear technology has stalled the country’s economy is vastly untrue. It is the way it has been utilized. Various sanctions and aid cut-offs resulted from Pakistan’s policy to go on the offensive with nuclear means. Had Pakistan even been a little more conservative in its approach, it would have brought great financial and social gains to the nation as a whole. Pakistan’s idea of spending a large share of its budget is understandable due to tensions with neighbours India. But such astronomical sums, as it has spent in the past, are unforgivable, looking at the fact that 34% of the population is poor. Had Pakistan’s policy-makers been sincere in the usage of nuclear technology, Pakistan might have been producing 25% electrical energy from it by now (as was projected by IAEA). If human lives are given priority over personal gains there is no doubt in my mind that nuclear technology, along with all other sectors of the industry, will save Pakistan billions of rupees apart from creating many a jobs for both the skilled and unskilled labor. Right now, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Adeel Khan

Ryerson University June 2001

Bibliography

1- Shahid Burki, Pakistan – Fifty Years of Nationhood (Colorado: Westview Press, 1999) 2- Daniel Poneman, Nuclear Power in the Developing World (London: George Allen and Unwin Publishers Ltd., 1982) 3- James Katz and Onkar Marwah, Nuclear Power in Developing Countries (Toronto and Lexington: Lexington Press, 1982) 4- Ernest Lefever, Nuclear Arms in the Third World (Washington: The Brookings Institute, 1979) 5- Andrew Koch and Jennifer Topping, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Program: A Status Report”, Monterey Institute of International Studies (1999) 6- Pakistan Defense, http://wahcantt.www8.50megs.com

Note: Bold font for footnotes is employed when the entire paragraph or list has been taken, rather then just a sentence

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Figure 1: Pakistan’s Nuclear-Related Facilities