11 November 2016

Chasnupp‑3 Connected to the Grid in Pakistan

Chasnupp-3 Connected to the Grid in Pakistan

11 November 2016, Updated 10 January 2017

On 15 October 2016, unit 3 of Pakistan’s Chasnupp (Chashma Nuclear Power Plant) was connected to the grid. The reactor had become critical on 1 August 2016. According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) data, the project represented the first construction start anywhere in the world after Fukushima was triggered in March 2011 and would have made it also the first reactor, whose construction had begun after 3/11, to start up. However, official Pakistani sources indicate that construction—first concrete—had already begun on 4 March 2011, one week prior to the Fukushima events.

The Chasnupp-3 reactor is a CNP-300 design, imported from China, and the grid connection ceremony was attended by officials not just from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, but also Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). Pakistan now has thrice as many CNP-300 reactors as China, which has only one operating reactor with this design, Qinshan-1. The origins of Chasnupp-3 go back to an agreement between Pakistan and the CNNC that was reached in late 1989, with the final contract signed in Beijing on 31 December 1991. The first reactor at Chasnupp was commissioned in 2000 and in 2004 Pakistan signed an agreement to import the second unit. Construction of the second unit started in 2005 and Chasnupp-2 was first connected to the grid on 14 March 2011, barely three days after the Fukushima accidents commenced. Construction of Chasnupp-3 also started the same year, on 28 May 2011. Construction of Chasnupp-4, the twin unit, started on 18 December 2011. The reactor’s estimated cost went up even before construction commenced, from Rs.129 billion (roughly USD1.6 billion) to Rs.140 billion. A more recent estimate is even higher, at USD2.37 billion. However, the reactor has been commissioned in the year that was projected when construction started, i.e., in 2016, with commercial operation originally scheduled for December 2016, which is also still achievable.

Pakistan is building two more Chinese origin reactors, Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (Kanupp) units 2 and 3, with construction start dates of 20 August 2015 and 31 May 2016 respectively. These reactors are of the hitherto un-built ACP1000 design. There has been widespread civil-society opposition to the construction of these reactors next to the crowded city of Karachi, with the environmental impact assessment being a particular target of criticism.