ISLAMABAD: Billions of rupees have been sought by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in additional funds for timely completion of the ongoing work on nuclear power plants with a total output capacity of 2,880 megawatts on time, as the government struggles to create fiscal space for timely commissioning of these projects.
Asking for the government’s continued financial support, PAEC Chairman Muhammad Naeem also announced that Chashma-3 nuclear power plant with a generation capacity of 340 megawatts would start producing power in August this year. Chashma-4, with a similar capacity, would start generating power in the first quarter of 2017, he added.
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He was speaking at the 2016 convocation of the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) – an offshoot of the PAEC that is producing quality nuclear scientists.
Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal and Director-General of Strategic Plans Division (SPD) Lt-Gen Mazhar Jamil also attended the event.
“We look forward to the much-needed support from the government”, said Naeem. The chairman said that the commission also needed government support for completing Karachi Nuclear Power Plants, K2 and K3, with a combined generation capacity of 2,200MW.
The PAEC chairman comments were made at a time when the federal authorities are trying to allocate scarce financial resources, while remaining within the limits prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.
The PAEC had approached the Ministries of Finance, Planning and the Prime Minister’s Office, seeking funds for critical power projects, said the officials.
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In a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Planning Minister sought a development budget of Rs1 trillion for the next fiscal year against the Finance Ministry’s proposal of Rs655 billion.
The PAEC needed nearly Rs15 billion during the current fiscal year to fast track work on Chashma nuclear power plants. For the next fiscal year, the Commission also needed nearly Rs200 billion for completing work on K2 and K3 nuclear power plants. The K2 and K3 are scheduled to be completed by 2022 and 2023.
However, the government’s ability to set aside additional funds are inhibited not just by inadequate fiscal space but also because of its skewed priorities for setting 2018 as the completion date for the projects aimed at fulfilling an electoral promise.
Projects maturing before 2018 would get the required funding, said the sources.
A key consideration, according to the officials, is the amount of money needed to generate a megawatt of electricity to meet the 2018 deadline. The per megawatt cost of instaling a nuclear power plant was higher than other sources, but once completed it is one of the cheapest sources of power.
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Ahsan Iqbal said that some power plants fuelled by coal and liquefied natural gas would be completed within the next couple of years, adding that Bin Qasim Power Plant and Sahiwal Power Plant would also be commissioned by next year. LNG-based power plants, capable of producing 3,600MW, would be completed by 2018, he added.
The minister said that 10,000MW of electricity would be added to the national grid by 2018.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.