Pakistan inaugurated its third nuclear power plant on Thursday. The 330-MW Chashma Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1, built with Chinese assistance, will help the country battle a critical power shortfall, authorities reportedly said. 

The reactor near Chashma Barrage on the left bank of River Indus, 32 kilometers from Mianwali City, became operational three months ahead of schedule, according to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, The Nation reported. China is building two more reactors at the same plant.

Pakistan is enduring crippling power shortages. Pakistani newspaper Dawn on Tuesday quoted the Pakistan Electric Power Co. as saying that power demand was 17,026 MW against production of 13,111 MW, creating a shortfall of 3,915 MW. The newspaper said load shedding extended from six to eight hours a day in cities and from 10 to 15 hours a day in small towns and villages. 

This month alone, besides the inauguration of the Pakistani reactor, a new Ling Ao phase II nuclear plant was connected to the grid in China’s Guangdong Province, and Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant was started up. 

Some analysts are unconvinced that the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan will make a major dent in nuclear power production. As Bloomberg reported today, Exxon Mobil forecast that nuclear power will be unchanged at 8% of the world’s total energy mix in 2030, compared with 6% in 2005. Company officials said that as a low-carbon energy source, nuclear power will continue to be an important energy source in the future. 

Sources: POWERnews, The Nation, Dawn, Bloomberg