PM regrets ‘self-created’ hurdles to CPEC

Published February 3, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses an inaugural ceremony of nuclear power facility — K-3, the third unit of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (Kanupp) in Karachi on Thursday. — PID photo
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif addresses an inaugural ceremony of nuclear power facility — K-3, the third unit of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (Kanupp) in Karachi on Thursday. — PID photo

KARACHI: Pakistan’s “self-created hurdles” stalled work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif agreed on Thursday, as he inaugurated the country’s seventh nuclear power plant and stressed the need for more cheap energy sources in the face of a costly fuel import bill.

However, speaking at the launching ceremony, attended by Chinese authorities, the premier vowed that there would be no roadblocks to the multibillion-dollar infrastructure project from now on.

Without naming the previous government, PM Shehbaz said the launching, execution and completion of several CPEC-related projects ranging from rebuilding the railway network to setting up special industrial zones were earlier delayed.

“In the recent past, we ourselves created hurdles that led to a deadlock in the CPEC project,” he told participants. “But now, I firmly hope and believe that these CPEC projects will be completed at pace.”

The newly inaugurated nuclear power facility — called K-3, the third unit of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (Kanupp) — has a nameplate capacity of 1,100 megawatts.

Taking the opportunity at the event, the prime minister addressed top officials of China’s nuclear energy regulatory agency among the audience to consider signing an agreement for another nuclear power project in Pakistan called Chasnupp-5.

“I publicly make a very serious and sincere offer that let’s sit down and discuss all the important aspects of our next proposal,” he said. “And if you can really agree on pricing formulas and important terms and conditions, I think we can certainly sign a letter of intent tomorrow, which would lead to an agreement in weeks and months. So, the ball is now in your court. And if you agree on a price of $2 million per megawatt, we can sign an agreement right now.”

Earlier, sources told Dawn that the development of C-5, which is the fifth unit of the Chashma Nuclear Power Generating Station, has hit a snag because of the reported refusal by the Ministry of Finance to furnish a sovereign guarantee.

The share of nuclear power in the national energy mix has grown at a sharp pace in recent years; with a share of 27.1pc, it was the largest contributor to the energy pie in December. Hydel, coal and local gas were the other main sources, with respective contributions of 20.4pc, 18.1pc and 15.1pc.

As many as six nuclear power plants are currently operational in the country. The first nuclear power plant, known as Kanupp-1, started generating 137MW of electricity way back in 1971. It was de-commissioned in 2021 after a 50-year run.

Meanwhile, the PAEC set up and has been running four nuclear power units based on Chinese technology near Chashma, Punjab. With a nameplate capacity of 325MW each, C-1 and C-2 started operations in 2000 and 2011, respectively. C-3 and C-4 became operational in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and have a gross capacity of 340MW each.

Separately, PAEC established K-2 and K-3 at Paradise Point, once a popular public beach on the outskirts of Karachi. The two units have a nameplate capacity of 1,100MW each.

The six nuclear plants have a combined installed capacity of 3,530MW, constituting a share of 8.1pc in the country’s total nameplate power-generating capacity.

In his speech on Thursday, PM Shehbaz called the completion of K-3 a step forward in cooperation with Pakistan’s “most trusted friend,” China. He also congratulated the scientists and engineers of both countries “who worked tirelessly to complete the project”.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2023

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