Chinese-built nuclear plant starts up in Pakistan

Pakistan’s fourth nuclear power plant was connected to the grid on Wednesday. The 240MW plant is Chinese-built.

Pakistan is presently facing a summer demand-supply gap of some 7,000MW, which is nearly one third of its total capacity.

The Chashma-III reactor, located near capital Islamabad, is the third built as part of a collaboration between the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

The country’s first nuclear plant was supplied by Canada in 1972, with an installed capacity of 137 MW.

Chashma is likely to be commissioned by April 2017. Four more reactors are planned including two 2,200MW ones.

In June 2008 the government announced plans to build units 3&4 at Chashma, each 320 MWe gross and largely financed by China. A further agreement for China's help with the project was signed in October 2008, and given prominence as a counter to the US-India agreement shortly preceding it.

In March 2009 China's SNERDI announced that it was proceeding with design of Chashma 3&4, with China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp (CZEC) as the general contractor and China Nuclear Industry No.5 Construction Company as installer. In April 2009, a design contract with SNERDI was signed, and the government said that it had approved the project at a cost of $2.37 billion, with $1.75 billion of this involving "a foreign exchange component". In March 2010 Pakistan announced that it had agreed the terms for Chashma 3&4, whereby China would provide 82% of the total US$ 1.912 billion financing as three 20-year low-interest loans. It would also provide fuel for the reactors’ lifetime nominally of 40 years.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has raised some questions about China's supply of Chasma 3&4. Contracts for units 1&2 were signed in 1990 and 2000 respectively, before 2004 when China joined the NSG, which maintains an embargo on sales of nuclear equipment to Pakistan. China argued that units 3&4 are similarly "grandfathered", and arrangements are consistent with those for units 1&2