Advocating the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Stephen Hawking once said, “I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”
Nuclear technology can play an important role in socio-economic development of a country. This revolution in technology has also emerged as a guarantor of national security and sovereignty. In addition, nuclear energy can contribute to energy security while reducing or eliminating need for natural gas or other fossil fuels used for electricity generation.
Pakistan’s nuclear energy program started in 1954, largely inspired by then US President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech in December 1953. During his address Eisenhower emphasized on promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the field of agriculture, medicine, and electricity generation.
Over the years, Pakistan’s civilian nuclear energy programme has contributed to its socio-economic uplift. Furthermore, there is an ample room available for Pakistan to enhance its nuclear power generation capability to meet growing energy demands.
Pakistan has played a very important role in utilizing the peaceful nuclear energy sector in various domains. Peaceful applications are best utilized in power generation, minerals exploration, developing high-yield stress tolerant crops, cancer treatment, designing and fabrication of industrial plants and equipment and human resource development for many years.
Pakistan has used its Centres of Excellence to promote and share best practices in nuclear security through three affiliated institutes: the Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS), the National Institute of Safety and Security (NISAS), and the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS). Along with this, Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) was established under the Ordinance III of 2001 for regulation of nuclear safety and radiation protection. In 1994, Pakistan also signed convention on nuclear safety which requires states to established regulatory bodies separated from those involving the promotion of nuclear energy. PNRA, since its development, has demonstrated excellence as a role model for safety culture at national and international levels by adopting various precautionary measures.
In March 2018, former International Atomic EnergyAgency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano visited Pakistan. He visited various nuclear facilities of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and appreciated the safety and security mechanism of Pakistan’s nuclear program expressing satisfaction with Pakistan's peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Keeping in mind the prospects of peaceful use of nuclear energy, the IAEA, in 2018, initiated a four-year program with Pakistan to closely coordinate with country’s key nuclear energy institutions on safe, reliable and sustainable operations of nuclear power plants.
Additionally, Mr Amano inaugurated a food safety laboratory of the Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology in Faisalabad. The institute uses nuclear and other modern techniques in agriculture and biology to address challenges for crop production and conservation. Mr Amano was also briefed on the Institute’s work to develop new strains of cotton, wheat, rice and other crops.
Appreciating the "positive role" played by Pakistan in promoting peaceful uses of nuclear technology, IAEA assisted Pakistan to establish Veterinary Residue Laboratory, which now carries out food safety tests ofinternational standards. The new laboratory can test meat and other food products and certify that they do not contain veterinary drug residues that exceed safety limits.
Nuclear technology is playing a crucial role in cancer treatment. So far, 18 cancer hospitals – spread across Pakistan’s four provinces and the capital, Islamabad – are working on cancer treatment. These hospitals alone, working under the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, are responsible for 80% of cancer treatment in the country. The IAEA stands ready to assist Pakistan in strengthening capacities for key elements of a cancer control programme. These include prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and palliative care.
On the eve of global summit on nuclear security in Vienna, Pakistan provided a thorough glance to its ‘stringent’ nuclear safety mechanisms. This event was attended by diplomats around the world. A booklet was presented by Pakistan titled ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Regime,' released alongside IAEA’s third International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) - with the aim to demonstrate Pakistan's “commitment and contribution to the global objectives of civilian nuclear utilization.” Such a step was taken with an aim to counter the myths, disinformation, misperceptions and unfounded propaganda against the country’s peaceful nuclear energy programme. The booklet outlines that there is an urgent need to recognise the best practices Pakistan has in place for safety of its peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Pakistan’s clean history in utilizing nuclear energy programme is a clear depiction of its national resolve and commitment towards effective implementation of a stringent peaceful nuclear programme. A programmewhich is not only safe and secure, but also compliments country’s socio-economic development plans. Therefore, country- specific discrimination particularly against Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear programme in global nuclear mainstream appears to be politically motivated.
The international community should acknowledge Pakistan’s remarkable experience in safe and secure operation of nuclear power plants. Henceforth, there is a need to admire the efforts and commitments Pakistan has in place for its peaceful nuclear programme through recognizing Pakistan as a responsible Nuclear State. As it has been rightly said that Pakistan is confident but never complacent regarding nuclear safety and security.