By Sher Bano*
Pakistan has been making vital use of nuclear technology for the socio-economic development of the country and plans to further utilize it in order to attain the ‘Sustainable Development Goals” (SDG’s) of the United Nations. Nuclear Technology is being utilized in various areas such as health, hydrology, agriculture, industry, electricity generation, basic sciences and environment. Pakistan also stands ready to increase its cooperation with other countries and help develop their capacity in peaceful utilization of nuclear technology.
In the recent visit of Pakistan’s delegation to the 65th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Commission “IAEA”, Chairman PAEC Mr. Muhammad Naeem apprised the Director General about Pakistan’s recent accomplishments in using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in diverse fields of health, agriculture, industry and power generation. Pakistan could not have achieved this without its mutual beneficial cooperation with IAEA in the past years. Director General Grossi also lauded the financial support provided by the Pakistan to ReNuAL 2 project of the Agency for modernization of IAEA’s Nuclear application laboratories located in Seibersdorf, Austria. He also suggested the collaboration between “PCEANS” (Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence in Nuclear Security) and IAEA’s planned Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre at Seibersdorf. Director General Grossi and Chairman PAEC both agreed that this impeccable collaboration should continue to grow.
Keeping in view the Pakistan’s commitment to its mandate “Atom for Peace and Development” and its efforts in promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology, Pakistan has been elected as the member of Board of Governor of ‘IAEA’ for the year 2021-23. In past Pakistan has been elected 20 times as member of Board of Governors and has been playing an important role in formation of programs and policies of the agency. In the year 2017 under the set out of the UN 195 states agreed to achieve SDGs by the year 2030. In order to achieve these goals, Pakistan has made vital use of its nuclear technology. Pakistan realized that by using innovative technologies and by involving scientific communities, the SDGs can be achieved more easily. Pakistan having expertise in utilizing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes has achieved 9 out of total 17 SDGs given by the UN which includes provision of good food, eradicating malnutrition and hunger, sanitation facilities, access to clean water, providing clean energy resources, mitigation of climate change, improve industry infrastructure, sustaining life on land and below water and to increase cooperation with other countries to achieve SDGs.
In the Agriculture sector there are three institutes that are working under PAEC for the production of better high-yielding crop varieties. With the use of nuclear technology they have produced 115 new varieties of cash crops through radiation mutation. In order to meet the future requirements, Pakistan is also producing the mutant varieties that are rich in zinc and iron micronutrients. In order to further increase the perishable food items shelf life, the commercial irradiation facility is working at Lahore. Similarly health sector is also an important part of SDGs. Pakistan has been using nuclear techniques for the treatment of disease such as cancer by using radiation oncology, nuclear medicines and radiation treatment. There are 30 facilities currently working in Pakistan for the treatment of cancer and 10 among these are either treatment facilities or diagnostic centers. Pakistan aims to double the number of these nuclear facilities in the near future. Currently these facilities are catering nearly 1,450,000 patients yearly.
Nuclear technology is also being used for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, cardiovascular disease and other fatal diseases. Thirdly production of the sufficient energy at low cost without the emission of greenhouse gases is very significant part of SDG. Nuclear energy being the clean and uninterrupted source of energy has played a vital role in meeting the increasing energy demand. Pakistan has ended its decade long energy crisis by planting various nuclear power plants. Currently 6% of the energy mix of Pakistan is being produced by 5 nuclear power plants that is expected to increase to 12 % this year after the operationalization of K-3 in Karachi. Moreover Pakistan Atomic Energy has presented a 40 year plan to the government of Pakistan to achieve the target of 8800 MW by the 2030 and 40,000 MW by 2048. Nuclear technology is also being used in order to increase and sustain industrial growth. As indicated by the SDGs nuclear technology is using X-ray technique that is non-destructive for the quality test of various products.
Pakistan has successfully utilized the nuclear technology for the achievement of these sustainable development goals. Pakistan through its cooperation with IAEA aims to continue making progress at these fronts to achieve its SDGs by the year 2030.
*The writer is working as a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a non-partisan think-tank based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.