Islamabad, Pakistan | AFP | Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday inaugurated the country’s fifth nuclear power plant, developed in collaboration with China amid hopes that his government could end chronic power shortages this year.
Pakistan is one of the few developing countries pursuing atomic energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, as it seeks to close an electricity shortfall that can stretch up to 7,000 MW in peak summer months, or around 32 percent of total demand.
The 340-megawatt Chashma-IV reactor, located some 250 kilometres (155 miles) southwest of capital Islamabad, is the fourth built as part of a collaboration between the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
The previous power plant was inaugurated in December by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified on corruption charges last month.
“Ending of loadshedding is the highest priority of our government and the power projects of 10,000 megawatts would be completed by next June,” Abbasi told a ceremony broadcast live.
“We will be able to end loadshedding by November 2017,” he said, adding that the nuclear power plants were efficient and safe and under international safeguards.
Abbasi said that the economic growth rate had surpassed the five percent mark and it will reach up to six percent this year because many new power projects had begun producing electricity and several were nearing completion.
Pakistan has been struggling to provide enough power to its nearly 200 million citizens for years, and Sharif had vowed to solve the crisis by 2018.
The energy sector has traditionally struggled to cover the cost of producing electricity, leading the government to divert $2 billion annually as a subsidy, according to a recent report commissioned by the British government.
China meanwhile is ramping up investment in its South Asian neighbour as part of a $46 billion project that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gwadar port with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.