Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology in the Socio-economic Development of Pakistan

Nuclear technology often elicits a sense of trepidation, as we associate it with nuclear weapons’ destructive potential. However, it is important to acknowledge that nuclear technology can also inspire hope, as it holds immense potential for peaceful applications that can significantly contribute to a country’s socioeconomic growth. By leveraging the benefits of nuclear technology, states can catalyze their development and enhance their capacity to address a range of societal challenges.

Undoubtedly, nuclear technology plays a pivotal role in driving the socio-economic development of any nation, including Pakistan, which is already a nuclear state. By harnessing the potential of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, Pakistan can unlock a plethora of opportunities for socioeconomic growth. There are various peaceful applications of nuclear technology that can serve as a catalyst for Pakistan’s development:

Pakistan going through a severe energy crisis since 2006 and is in dire need of energy sources. Several scholars have also pointed out that the energy shortage in Pakistan is exacerbated by an over-reliance on thermal sources such as natural gas, oil, and coal, which results in exorbitant electricity prices. Therefore, nuclear energy is the ultimate solution for generating electricity. Pakistan has been able to generate 12% of its total energy mix from nuclear power, with the help of five operational nuclear power plants. Furthermore, the inclusion of KANUPP-2 is added to further bolster Pakistan’s nuclear power generation capabilities. Whereas, nuclear power plants can provide a clean and consistent source of electricity, ensuring a reliable power supply for industries, businesses, and households. This would facilitate economic development, attract investment, and improve the standard of living. 

The function of nuclear power comes under the supervision of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission which shows how nuclear technology should be utilized and used peacefully for the betterment and development of the socioeconomic of the state. Most Importantly, with the promotion of peaceful uses of water desalination, medical applications, and food irradiation.

Nuclear energy has been identified as a versatile and promising solution for a variety of applications, including seawater desalination. In Pakistan, there is a growing interest in the use of nuclear technology for seawater desalination, and pre-safety and feasibility studies have already been conducted to evaluate the suitability of nuclear, solar, and diesel power as potential energy sources. Pakistan faces water scarcity issues, especially in arid regions. Nuclear energy can be utilized and nuclear technology has been used to power desalination plants, converting seawater into freshwater for irrigation and domestic use. This would enhance agricultural productivity and improve the availability of clean drinking water. Countries like Spain and Saudi Arabia have also considered water desalination. For instance, Spain, which is one of the driest regions in Europe, produces 3000 liters/day per person through a desalination plant and exports it to a fertile region for high-quality food production. In Saudi Arabia, water availability is influenced by socioeconomic status, and despite requiring two to three times more water for agriculture, it provides subsidies.

In Pakistan nuclear medicine services are delivered under Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) which is guided by International Atomic Energy Agency. Nuclear medicine has various diagnostic and therapeutic applications. And there are about 51 setups public and private which mainly focus on nuclear medicine and its better applications. Nuclear reactors can produce isotopes used in medical imaging and cancer treatment, advancing Pakistan’s healthcare sector and promoting better healthcare outcomes. Moreover, the field of medicine has witnessed exclusive improvements in terms of diseases like cancer which once was incurable now it can be treated more efficiently and can be diagnosed earlier, through nuclear techniques, like radiation and radionuclides.

Pakistan adopted regulations on food irradiation in 1996 still there are loopholes that need to be fulfilled thoroughly and make the irradiation method compulsory in every food industry for better implementation. Since, Irradiation is a food processing technique that can reduce the risk of food poisoning, prevent food waste, and extend the shelf life of food without compromising health or nutritional quality. Countries like Iran are also embracing radiation technology to boost the genetic diversity of its fruit trees, industrial and medicinal crops, oilseeds, and cereals. As far as Pakistan is concerned, irradiation is one of the best solutions for eliminating bacteria that causes food poisoning. It also helps in food preservation and food waste. Despite this, food waste and food poisoning cases are rapidly increasing in Pakistan. 

In a nutshell, the peaceful use of nuclear technology can help to meet the growing energy demands of many countries. This can lead to increased economic growth and job creation, as well as reduced dependence on imported energy sources. It can also improve energy security and reduce the impact of energy price fluctuations on the economy. However, nuclear energy should be utilized responsibly and safely. Additionally, it’s important to carefully manage and dispose of nuclear waste to minimize the environmental impacts. Most importantly, nuclear energy should be used in conjunction with other forms of renewable energy to create a balanced and sustainable energy mix.

Naz Dana
The author is working as an Assistant Research Fellow at Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN).
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