News from Pakistan is seldom bright. Natural disasters, war, border tensions prevail on economic growth, infrastructure construction, poverty alleviation. Even the recent death of Osama bin Laden brings back memories of a devastating past. With this lingering record, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, just preventing fears from the international community, released a statement aimed at tranquilizing its neighboring countries: no radiation from the 2 nuclear sites of the country.
The alarm came in the wake of the Japanese tsunami, which made the Fukushima plant a possible source of international contamination. Pakistan is an earthquake-prone area, with heavy death toll in the past. Doubts are cast about the quality and the control of the Pakistani facilities, since the equipment of its nuclear program are considered unchecked.
The statement is a new of its kind. Usually, governments assure that their nuclear ambitions are peaceful. The so-called dual use (both civil and military) is excluded and the energy is solely intended to cater to population needs. Houses and factories, not bomb and arsenals. Now the concern is different. Radiations are unstoppable; they really are the first globalized weapon of mass destruction.
Still, the conflict between the Pakistan’s necessities and the international distrust is obvious. The country wants to differentiate its energy mix, based for ⅔ on fossil fuel. The remaining is generated by hydroelectric and nuclear power, the latter being a mere 2.4% of the total. Two additional plants are under construction. They will represent a tool against the drought (which affects the harvests), the soil erosion and the rising cost of oil.
Since the beginning of the nuclear program, back in 1966, the help of France and Canada has diminished, and now China is the main supplier of technology and components. The political repercussions are fully visible, since Pakistan is located in a very sensitive area.
In 2008, India and USA signed a controversial nuclear treaty, officially for civilian uses only. Islamabad considered the accord as an alteration of a fragile balance of power; the answer was the acceleration of its nuclear programs. But scarcity and opacity of information shed a murky light on the future. Simultaneously, the country desperately needs stability to take off. The industry wants cheap energy, not the frequent and unpredictable blackouts.
Business requires structural reforms to climb on the bandwagon of the new Asia prosperity. A country with great potential should not fear the future, but compete with it.