Cheap Energy from Nuclear Reactor

By: Anita Bano

Date: 17/09/2023

Pakistan is the first Muslim country in the world to construct and operate civil nuclear power plants. The electricity generated by civil nuclear power plants constitutes 8.4% of the electricity generated in Pakistan in 2020-21. Pakistan is a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The United States Department of Energy and The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have recognized the urgency of Pakistan’s energy needs.

The Efficiency of Nuclear Reactors

A Nuclear reactor is a very efficient source of energy; a device in which fission reaction takes place in a controlled manner i.e. Nuclear power plants use the heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert water into steam. The central part of the nuclear reactor is the core in which heat is generated by controlled nuclear fission. When this heat coolant is heated. In such a reactor, water is used both as a moderator & as the heat transfer medium. In the primary loop, water is circulated through the reactor vessel & transfers heat at high temperature and pressure (possibly 600 k and 150 atm) from the hot reactor core to the steam generator, which is a part of the secondary loop. In the steam generator evaporation provides high-pressure steam to operate the turbine that drives the electric generator which produces electricity. The construction and operation of these facilities are closely monitored and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The fission of 1 gram of uranium U 235 per day evolves energy at a rate of 1 Megawatt (MW) whereas 2.6 tons of coal per day must be burned in a conventional power plant to produce 1 MW of electric power. Enrico Fermi designed and constructed the first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago, which began operating in December 1942. Today over 400 reactors in 30 countries produce about 200,000 MW of electric power, the equivalent of 10 million barrels of Oil per day. In the United States, there are 103 reactors. Pressurized water reactor PWR, a type in common use in North America and Chashma in Pakistan.

In the event of an emergency, safety valves can be used to prevent pipes from bursting or the reactor from exploding. The valves are designed so that they can derive all of the supplied flow rates with little increase in pressure.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Power Landscape

Pakistan has five small reactors in operation with a combined capacity of 1455 MW. These reactors also include a tiny reactor with a capacity of 125 MW is the PHWR Canadian-built reactor in Karachi and has been in operation since 1972. Chashma Nuclear Power Plants (CHASNUPP) consists of four operating units. CHASNUPP- I 325 MW is a Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) that began commercial operation in May 2000. CHASNUPP-II. The 325 MW is also PWR officially inaugurated in May 2011.CHASNUPP-III & CHASNUPP-IV have a generation capacity of 340 MW each and were connected to the National Grid in December 2016 and September 2017 respectively. Pakistan is also building two Chinese Hualong reactors with a capacity of 1100 MW each near the port city of Karachi. These new reactors are 60% complete and have become operational since July 14, 2023.

The Government of Pakistan plans to boost nuclear capacity to 8,800 MW i.e. about 20% of power generation capacity by building at least three to four more big reactors by 2030. Interestingly, Asian countries dominate the market for new nuclear power plants of the ten new nuclear power reactors that started up worldwide in 2016, eight were located in Asia.

In the last ten years’ nuclear generation has more than doubled in India and Pakistan and more than tripled in China. Nuclear reactors still seem to be the best way to meet countries’ energy needs. Together with the rising cost of fossil fuels and increasing demand for electricity, these factors seem likely to lead to the construction of more reactors. The designed life of modern nuclear power plants is much longer, typically over 40 years, compared to conventional fossil-fueled thermal power plants. Nuclear power is safe, reliable, economical, and environment friendly.

Challenges in Radioactive Waste Management

An unavoidable feature of reactor operation is the accumulation of radioactive waste and spent fuel rods from power reactor operation nowadays radioactive waste is thrown into the sea where they are immersed in water. Burying the nuclear wastes deep underground currently seems to be the best long-term way to dispose of them. The right location is easy to specify but not easy to find, stable geologically with no earthquake possibility, no nearby population centers, a type of rock that does not disintegrate in the presence of heat and radiation but is easy to drill into and not near groundwater that might become contaminated. So permanent secure storage facilities for reactor waste have yet to be found, keeping in view the health and safety of the public.

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