The IAEA greatly values cooperation with Pakistan in peaceful uses of nuclear technology
Mr Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recently made a three-day official visit to Pakistan. He visited various centres and facilities of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in Islamabad, Faisalabad and Karachi. He also visited Pakistani premier Mr Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. “Pakistan is completely implementing IAEA guidelines,” is the way he chose to describe the status quo while delivering his keynote address to a seminar on The Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy and Pakistan jointly organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) on 14 March 2018. During his visit to Karachi, Mr Amano praised Pakistan and stated that that the new Kanupp II and III “plants are very heavily protected. Your country needs more electricity and you are committed to nuclear safety; you are working with the IAEA”. He expressed the view that nuclear power should not be limited to developed nations and developing nations should also have the right to use atomic power.
Notably, on the military side of things, China has just sold Pakistan a powerful missile tracking system. The PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan introduced Mr Amano in her welcome address during which she highlighted Pakistan’s track record on nuclear safety and gave the welcome remarks. The important seminar was attended by participants from different walks of life including serving and retired diplomats, senior military officers, scientists, academics, scholars, media persons and university students. During the seminar Mr Amano said that: “You have the knowledge; you have the pool of well-trained people to do their job. We [IAEA and Pakistan] have a fruitful two-way relationship.” As reported in Dawn, the IAEA chief explained that while his organisation is known as a global nuclear watchdog, he is motivated by the body’s new motto: atoms for peace and development.
“Our focus is to transfer knowledge and technology, especially to developing countries. Nuclear power is an important area of cooperation between Pakistan and IAEA,” he said, while adding that other areas include food safety and food production. He observed that nuclear technology can help in food safety processes and the export of livestock.
As he remarked:
Induced mutation technology helps accelerate mutation in food products. This is widely used in your country. All countries are suffering from climate change; in order to address climate change mutation technology is very important.
Mr Amano said that cancer is an important focus of IAEA. “Asia has the highest burden of cancer in the world. The trend is rising. Sadly, Pakistan is no exception. Quite often women are the victims. We need to do something in this area. You are much more advanced than certain countries. Training of medical professionals is at the heart of what we do.” He said that a new project was being launched focusing on radiotherapy and cancer treatment in the country. He went on to argue:
Energy is indispensible for development. Nuclear power can help address challenges. It’s incontestable that nuclear is low-carbon energy. Without nuclear power targets of the Paris Agreement cannot be achieved. People are worried about the future of nuclear power. We see steady growth of nuclear power. We need to address climate change; nuclear power is one of the very effective responses. I believe in the future of nuclear power but I recognise the differences [in opinion over use of atomic energy] before and after the Fukushima accident.
The IAEA chief observed that the centre of nuclear power was moving from the global North to the South, from Europe to Asia, to China, India, and Pakistan. He detected a shifting centre of nuclear power. He said the UAE, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were all considering or have already started work on civilian nuclear power projects. He added that if countries opt for nuclear power, IAEA helps them use it safely and sustainably:
Access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries; developing countries should also have access.
During the welcome remarks, CISS executive director Ali Sarwar Naqvi pointed out that this was Mr Amano’s second visit to Pakistan. He said Pakistan has had a relationship with IAEA since the 1950s. “The relationship has been mutually beneficial,” he said, adding that Dr Abdus Salam’s statue was unveiled in Vienna by Mr Amano last year.
Dr Zafar Ali, Director General Security Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that all civilian facilities in Pakistan are under IAEA safeguards in perpetuity. Mr Amano concluded that:
Pakistan has offered to share experience and expertise with other states under IAEA auspices. We are willing to share our best practices in non-proliferation. Pakistan gives highest importance to nuclear safety and security. No pilferage or theft of nuclear material has ever happened in Pakistan.
Mr Amano said that the IAEA appreciates Pakistan’s efforts. Detailing everyday uses of nuclear technology in sectors such as industry, agriculture and medicine, he said that 18 hospitals in Pakistan are carrying out treatment of cancer-related diseases and it needs to be extended to the rural areas of the country.
He highlighted the importance of transferring nuclear technology to the developing world as one of the most important areas of the IAEA’s work. He explained:
The IAEA contributes directly to the achievement of nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” he said. “We focus on transferring knowledge and expertise. High-quality technical training helps countries to build their own expertise so they can train future generations of nuclear specialists.
He further said that Pakistan had been a beneficiary of the IAEA assistance and its government was fully committed to enhancing this collaboration with the agency in diverse fields ranging from nuclear power development to that of human health, agriculture and livestock.
He said Pakistan has conceptualized and developed an intensive programme for peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which offers great opportunities. Pakistan is fully committed to IAEA’s objectives. Its civil nuclear cycle is under safeguards and its nuclear safety and security regime is par excellence.
Discussing the role of nuclear power in meeting the future electricity needs of the country, Amano said: “Energy is indispensable for development. Nuclear power can help address challenges as it is low-carbon energy.”
The IAEA chief observed that the centre of nuclear power was shifting from the global North to the South, from Europe to Asia, to China, India, and Pakistan. “Access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries; developing countries should also have access to it.”
He also appreciated that Pakistan was enhancing crop yield in the field of agriculture. He mentioned that Pakistan and IAEA have mutually beneficial and wide-ranging cooperation. The Foreign Ministry Security Division Director General (DG), Dr Zafar Ali said that Pakistan was all set to be a full member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and to contribute towards achieving sustainable development goals worldwide. Pakistan had offered to share its experience and expertise with other countries in the area of peaceful uses of nuclear technology, nuclear safety and security, non- proliferation and export controls.
Dr Naeem Salik gave a brief overview of the historical evolution of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and highlighted the fact that it started as a purely peaceful nuclear programme with applications in medicine, agriculture and energy. Pakistan had an extensive peaceful nuclear programme in a very active, productive and mutually beneficial partnership with the IAEA.
Syed Muhammad Ali, Senior Research Fellow, CISS mentioned that Pakistan, like the developed nations, must explore and pursue a sustainable, clean and cost-effective solution to energy challenges. Nuclear energy offers a useful, long-term, environment-friendly and cost-effective solution to growing national energy needs.
During the welcome remarks, CISS executive director Ali Sarwar Naqvi pointed out that this was Mr Amano’s second visit to Pakistan. He said Pakistan has had a relationship with IAEA since the 1950s. “The relationship has been mutually beneficial,” he said.
The IAEA press release is available below:
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano commended efforts by Pakistan to increase nuclear safety and security as the country works to triple its nuclear power capacity. Mr Amano was also briefed on the use of nuclear technology in health care and agriculture. Mr Amano was in Pakistan on 12-14 March.
In Karachi, at the site of the KANUPP nuclear power plant, Mr Amano observed work on the construction of two new reactors and saw the physical protection measures that had been implemented. The two reactors, due to be completed in 2021 and 2022, will have a combined capacity of over 2000 MW of electricity, close to 10% of the country’s total.
During his meeting with Mr Amano, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi commended the IAEA for the support provided to Pakistan in the use of peaceful nuclear applications. Pakistan “was ready to further strengthen its partnership with the IAEA and contribute towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Amano expressed his appreciation for Pakistan’s cooperation with the IAEA and its active contribution to the Agency’s efforts to build capacity in other countries in the region by providing experts and hosting training courses.
In Islamabad, Mr Amano was briefed by the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Muhammad Naeem, on the Commission’s role in overseeing the increasing use of peaceful nuclear technology to meet the country’s development goals.
In his meetings at the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, Mr Amano was informed about the steps Pakistan is taking to further strengthening nuclear safety. The regulator and the Commission are working in tandem, with the regulator playing a key role, including in the establishment of a robust safety culture at nuclear facilities.
The IAEA launched a four-year project launched this year to help bring together key institutions in Pakistan to work more closely on the safe, reliable and sustainable operation of nuclear power plants.
New Radiation Oncology Suite inaugurated
Mr Amano attended the opening of an International Conference on Advances in Radiation Oncology and Nuclear Medicine organised by the Nuclear Medicine, Oncology & Radiotherapy Institute, where he inaugurated a new Radiation Oncology Suite.
He highlighted the IAEA’s assistance in strengthening cancer hospitals in developing countries to provide treatment to patients to international standards.
Mr Amano provided an overview of the IAEA’s support in procuring radiotherapy equipment, training medical staff and upgrading radiotherapy centres. He noted the importance of effective safety measures to protect patients and staff from harmful exposure to radiation.
Food safety: new lab
In Faisalabad, Mr Amano inaugurated the food safety laboratory of the Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology, which uses nuclear and other modern techniques in agriculture and biology to address challenges for crop production and conservation. He was also briefed on the Institute’s work to develop new strains of cotton, wheat, rice and other crops.
The IAEA helped to establish Pakistan’s first Veterinary Residue Laboratory, which now carries out food safety tests to international standards. “The new laboratory can test meat and other food products and certify that they do not contain veterinary drug residues that exceed safety limits,” Mr Amano said.
Last year, the Veterinary Residue Laboratory earned International Organization for Standardization (ISO) accreditation. This is likely to boost the country’s meat exports, which could be significant for the economy as the livestock sector accounts for 12 percent of GDP in Pakistan.
Peaceful nuclear applications
On the last day of his visit, in Karachi, Mr Amano gave the keynote address to a Seminar on the Peaceful Uses on Nuclear Energy and Pakistan — Nuclear Technology for Sustainable Development. He highlighted the importance of transferring nuclear technology to the developing world as one of the most important areas of the IAEA’s work.
“The IAEA contributes directly to the achievement of nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” he said. “We focus on transferring knowledge and expertise. High-quality technical training helps countries to build their own expertise so they can train future generations of nuclear specialists.”
“In some areas, such as nuclear energy, safety and security, we are the leading international organization. In others, such as human health and food and agriculture, we play a supporting role – but a very effective one. Our goal, always, is to achieve concrete results,” he added.