The atomic energy commission budget has been increased by a whopping 78% to Rs39.2 billion in the upcoming financial year in a bid to up the ante on nuclear power plants for cheaper electricity.
The allocation for Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is almost 11% of the total federal development budget estimated at Rs360 billion for the financial year 2012-13.
A major chunk of the PAEC budget has been allocated to two nuclear power plants, according to the budget documents. An amount of Rs34.6 billion has been set aside for Chashma Nuclear Power Plants, C3 and C4. The total cost of these two projects is Rs190 billion which will be partially funded by Rs136 billion Chinese loan.
The government has so far spent Rs62.4 billion on the mega project having 660 megawatts generation capacity. With Rs34.6 billion additional spending, the government will be able to complete almost half of the work by June 2013.
To meet the growing energy deficit, the PAEC has been assigned an ambitious target of 8,800 megawatts nuclear power generation by 2030. Pakistan is keen to seek assistance from China and France to meet the goal, according to a senior government official. Due to inconsistency of policies, the country’s energy mix has drastically changed with hydel generation declining to a third and thermal generation increasing to two-thirds, resulting to expensive power generation.
Both nuclear power plants C3 and C4 had been planned in accordance with the safeguard agreements with IAEA.
Currently, PAEC is carrying out 28 projects and studies having an estimated cost of Rs237 billion. According to the documents, an amount of Rs35.5 million has also been sanctioned to carry out survey and feasibility studies of six additional nuclear power plants sites. The total cost of the feasibility studies is Rs150 million.
An amount of Rs790 million has been set aside for a joint pre-project feasibility and design study of a 1,000 megawatts nuclear power plant in Karachi. Similarly, for the development of project team for site development and installation of 300 megawatts and 1,000 megawatts nuclear power plants in Karachi, another sum of Rs100 million has been sanctioned.
For Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the government has sanctioned Rs400 million.
Bringing an end to uncertainty hanging over Thar Coal Gasification project, the government has eventually set aside Rs900 million for the all important scheme that could develop another source of cheap electricity generation. The project has been opposed by tooth and nail by planning commission, allegedly on behalf of the oil lobby.
The total cost of the project is Rs8.9 billion including Rs5.84 billion foreign loan. So far, the government has not spent a single penny on this project.
The government has also increased defense production ministry budget by 37.5% to Rs2 billion, almost the entire amount or Rs1.9 billion has been allocated to the project of installation of ship lift and transfer system for providing docking and repair facilities to submarines and commercial vehicles. The total cost of this project is Rs5.6 billion of which Rs2.4 billion have been so far spent on the project.
The development budget of defence ministry has been reduced to Rs3.2 billion, lower by Rs640 million or 16.6% over the current fiscal year. Out of that an amount of Rs2.5 billion has been sanctioned for defence ministry and Rs717 million for the national space agency namely Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2012.