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Pakistan inaugurates third nuclear reactor

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 12 (UPI) -- Pakistan opened its third nuclear power reactor on Thursday.

Built in collaboration with China, the second unit of the Chashma Nuclear Power Plant in Punjab province will produce 330 megawatts of electricity.

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Prior to the new reactor coming online, nuclear power accounted for 725 megawatts of Pakistan's electricity, with fossil fuels and hydropower supplying about 65 percent and 34 percent respectively. But the country faces continual energy shortfalls, fueled by rapid economic growth that is outpacing its ability to produce power.

Figures from Pakistan's Ministry of Water and Power show the country's energy shortfall currently stands at about 3,000 megawatts. As a result, the government resorts to load shedding and controlled power cuts, forcing Pakistanis to rely on generators as a power source.

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"We are duty bound to make every effort to overcome the prevailing crisis by exploiting all the available sources and avenues of power generation in the shortest possible time," Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in inaugurating the reactor Thursday, World Nuclear News reports.

The newly opened unit, completed more than three months ahead of schedule, is the second reactor to be supplied by China.

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Two more Chinese-supplied units, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4, expected to add another 680 megawatts of power, are already under construction, Gilani said. Pakistan aims to generate 8,800 megawatts of nuclear power by 2030.

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In the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, however, some experts maintain the reactor models China is supplying to Pakistan are outdated and based on 1970s technology.

But in an interview with China.org.cn last week, Masood Khan, Pakistan's ambassador to China, said Japan's nuclear crisis would not affect civil nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and China.

"Immediately after the Fukushima accidents, China conducted the most rigorous stress tests just to make sure that their systems were up to the mark," Khan said. "They have given a clean bill of health to their nuclear power plants and their nuclear technology. We are satisfied that these two C3 and C4 (nuclear reactors) are not going to be affected by the Fukushima accident."

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Gilani called for an end to "discrimination" in giving Pakistan access to atomic technology for peaceful use.

"I wish to use the occasion of the inauguration of C-2 to urge the international community to eliminate discrimination between nations and make this promising technology accessible to Pakistan for peaceful use like power generation," he said, Press Trust of India reports.

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