Pakistan got re-elected to the Board of Governors of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the previous month owing to its contributions to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The board has an important role in considering membership in the IAEA, approving safeguard agreements, publishing nuclear safety standards and appointing the Director General of the IAEA. The re-election of Pakistan to the Board reflects the acknowledgement of the country’s nuclear safety and security credentials in accordance with the international standards.
Recently, Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS), in collaboration with the IAEA, hosted a five-day “International Training Course on Regulatory Authorisation for Nuclear Security” that ended on last Friday. It reflects Islamabad’s progress in peaceful uses of nuclear energy by imparting training to local and international participants.
The IAEA’s Director General Yukiya Amano visited Pakistan in March 2018 and observed various nuclear facilities of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). He appreciated Islamabad’s nuclear program as harmonious with the IAEA’s guidelines. Removing the misconceptions of some critics, he lauded the physical security measures taken for Karachi’s KANUP-II and KANUP-III and recognised that Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security regime was par excellent.
Markedly, he noted that throughout the history of the country’s nuclear power program, there has not been a single incident of theft of nuclear material or nuclear security lapse, let alone nuclear terrorism. To be sure, Pakistan keeps its nuclear weapons and delivery systems geographically separate for both increasing safety and security and reducing the chances of nuclear accidents.
The country has established a three-pronged approach for the nuclear security mechanisms, that is, at legislative and regulatory levels; at the institutional and organisational level; and, through effectively administering nuclear security systems and measures.
The Legislative and Regulatory Framework: Pakistan enacted export control laws in 2004 to pre-empt any mishandling of nuclear material, technology and equipment. Islamabad regulates effectively the Personnel Reliability Program for all of the employees involved in the nuclear projects.
Institutions and Organisations: Pakistan’s National Command Authority is the apex command and control body in the country responsible for determining the nuclear policy, employment process, and procurement and security measures. It is headed by the prime minister and consists of foreign, interior and finance ministers, and the triad-forces’ (army, air and navy) chiefs. Under the NCA resides the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which performs the executive functions such as ensuring the strict technological as well as physical security measures.
The Export Control Act of 2004 is monitored by Export Control Division. Pakistan’s Centre for Excellence on Nuclear Security (PCENS) is responsible for the training of employees on maintaining nuclear security standards. National Institute of Safety and Security was established especially for professionals and technicians in the nuclear field that guides them on five Ds, i.e., deterring, detecting, delaying, defending and destroying any nuclear-related mishaps.
Nuclear Safety and Security Measures: To strengthen its nuclear security infrastructure, Pakistan has been a committed party to the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, Convention on Nuclear Safety, and Convention Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
Pakistan’s peaceful uses of nuclear energy
For further enhancing cooperation with Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission, the IAEA launched a four-year program in 2018 to closely coordinate with Islamabad’s key nuclear energy institutions on “safe, reliable and sustainable operations of nuclear power plants.”
Electricity: Currently, Pakistan’s transmission and distribution capacity stands at 22,000 megawatts and faces the consumer demand of 25,000 MW, resulting in the energy deficit of 3,000 megawatts. The shortfall rises to 7,000 MW in the times of increasing consumer demand, especially in the summer. The K-II and K-III nuclear power plants will be operational by 2021 and would generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.
Thus, nuclear energy is an effective source of generating a large amount of electricity through cost-effective and climate-friendly energy production. It can also help in achieving the targets of the Pacific Agreement on the Climate Change.
Agriculture: The country’s Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology is responsible for using nuclear technology in addressing the agriculture issues regarding increasing crop production, its diversification and conservation. Nuclear technology, in particular, the induced mutation technology, is effective in food processing and food safety, thus enhancing the crop yield of the agriculture sector.
Pakistan’s Veterinary Residue Laboratory (PVRL) is the first of its kind in the country that deals with bringing food safety needs of the country at par with the international standards. In the laboratory, meat and other food products are tested to ascertain that these products do not contain the veterinary drug residues to a degree that it exceeds the safety limit. Thanks to its commendable efforts in this regard, the International Organisation of Standardisation (ISO) granted the PVRL the accreditation, which can be helpful in augmenting the meat exports and increasing the livestock’s current contribution of 12 percent.
Hospitals: Pakistan’s Institute of Nuclear Medicine, Oncology and Radiotherapy is instrumental in the use of nuclear energy for the cancer treatment in Pakistan. This year, the institute also inaugurated the Radiation Oncology Suite. Pakistan’s around eleven hospitals treat cancer using laser therapy as part of the nuclear energy.
Despite its nuclear program being in harmony with the international standards for the nuclear safety and security measures, the country has faced discrimination in the export control regimes. Moreover, it faces the challenges of ill-founded myths of threats associated to its nuclear program.
In the purview of the re-election of Pakistan to the Board of Governors of the nuclear watchdog and the acknowledgement of Pakistani’s safe and secure nuclear program by the DG IAEA, the onus lies on the international community to welcome Pakistan in the international arrangements for the civil-nuclear trade. The international community needs also to consider Pakistan’s admission to the nuclear export control regimes, taking into account the strategic environment and regional threat calculus that it has to grapple with regularly.
This article was published in The Nation newspaper on October 4, 2018.
Riaz Khokhar is a Research Assistant at the Center for International Strategic Studies. Mr. Khokhar holds a Masters degree in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. His research interests include Pakistan's foreign policy affairs, strategic dimensions of world affairs and nexus of security and economic issues among South Asian states. He wrote his Masters thesis on Pakistan's Foreign Policy Posture after Donald Trump's Coming into Power, completed in May 2017.