Nuclear Radiation & Nuclear Science & Technology in Pakistan

By N. M. BUTT

Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, P.O. Nilore, Islamabad, Pakistan

ABSTRACT

Pakistan was created in August 1947 and the Nuclear Radiation Education started with the appointment of Prof. R. M. Chaudhri, as the Head of the Physics Department at the Government College, Lahore in 1948. Professor Chaudhri had done his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in the Cavendish Laboratory of Professor Lord Rutherford. He worked in the Laboratory in late 20’s and early 30’s for his Ph.D. under Prof. M. O. Oliphant and Prof. Rutherford. During his Ph.D. in 1932 studies he had an extensive experience of the nuclear techniques developed at the Cavendish Laboratory by the famous physicists like J. J. Thomson, Chadwick, Rutherford, Geiger, Oliphant etc.

Prof. Chaudhri, an experimental physicist, experienced in the discharge of electricity through gases and studying the atomic physics through the discharge tube systems, set up the famous High Tension and Nuclear Research Laboratory at the Government College and in 1954 installed there the famous 1.2 MeV Cockcroft – Walton accelerator for nuclear reaction studies. It was a modern nuclear accelerator at the time and the best one in the region.

In addition to the study of nuclear reactions through the accelerated protons upto 1.2 MeV from this machine, the whole variety of nuclear physics experiments were set up by his M.Sc. (Physics) research students. This included the fabrication of Geiger Counters, gas – proportional radiation detectors, b-Counters and BF3 neutron detectors etc. As a requirement of one year research the M.Sc. students fabricated these various types of detectors. Prof. Chaudhri lectured nuclear physics one year course to the M.Sc. students in addition to supervising the final year experimental theses.

My own M.Sc. thesis was on the energy spectrum of alpha – particles emitted in the nuclear reaction of protons bombarded on lithium nuclii. This was the first nuclear reaction studies with the Cockcroft – Walton accelerator after its installation. Students were trained in one year about the vacuum technology, glass blowing, mechanical workshop techniques, the fabrication of electronic circuits for nuclear pulse counting systems, coincident units for the cosmic radiation research at this laboratory, atomic sputtering techniques, the techniques of fabrication of nuclear detectors for alpha, beta, gamma and neutron radiation etc. For detection of gamma – radiation, the NaI and CsI scintillation detectors were used.

Over the years this laboratory produced a number of students who had a strong base in experimental nuclear techniques and who went abroad to Europe and USA for further higher studies for Ph.D. In the mid 50’s the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was instituted and the majority of these nuclear trained students of Professor Chaudhri coming out from this laboratory were employed by the PAEC in early 60’s by the then Chairman of PAEC, Dr. I. H. Usmani. With the advice of Prof. A. Salam, a Nobel Laureate in Physics, Dr. Usmani planned the further training of these students in a variety of areas pertaining to nuclear radiation handling and research and in all important specialities for Nuclear Science and Engineering. This human resource formed the back bone of the development of the Nuclear Science and Technology in Pakistan in the form of several independent centres. This included the Nuclear Medical Centres, Nuclear Agriculture Centres, the Nuclear Uranium Exploration Centres, Nuclear Power Reactors and the classified programme of successful Nuclear Defense of Pakistan, all under the management of PAEC.

The pivotal role in higher nuclear and radiation research was played by Pakistan’s premier and the mother Institute PINSTECH (the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology) at Islamabad of which I worked as the Director General before retiring in 1996 from this assignment. PINSTECH had over 400 professionals and a total of over 2000 employees, with 14 technical department covering all aspects of nuclear science and technology including a Centre for Nuclear Studies for Higher Education in Nuclear S & T (established in 1968). This Centre is now a separate University with the name of Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) and is independent of PINSTECH. The nuclear radiation and nuclear physics training at other universities in Pakistan was however not significant, particularly with regard to nuclear research and specialized training.

Some discussion of the nuclear education given at the Government College, Lahore and the  radiation research and utilisation in Pakistan, quite a bit of it involving my own self for several decades, will be made in this paper. The paper will discuss the chronology of nuclear science and technology in Pakistan including the important uses of the nuclear radiation for public uses.


INTRODUCTION

The Nuclear History of Pakistan is a unique one. In an ocean of ignorance, with about 30% literacy in Pakistan, with poor standard of living, with increasing population and problems of economic conditions, with a poor status of precision machinery and a lame high technology in general etc., still the country became a declared nuclear power with a very fine set of Nuclear Laboratories in the country ranging from the exploration of indigenous Uranium, Fabrication of the natural Uranium Fuel which is being used in the 137 MW (electric) Candu Reactor operating in the city of Karachi for the last 30 years, to Uranium Enrichment Laboratories, Agricultural Nuclear Laboratories, twelve Nuclear Medical Centres catering for about 300,000 patients annually, a 300 MW light water cooled Power Reactor at Chashma and two Research Reactors (a 10MW swimming Pool Reactor and a Zero Power Reactor) at the multidisciplinary research institute PINSTECH, Islamabad with all the facilities of Nuclear Radiation use and safe handling.

The author did his M.Sc. with experimental specialization in the Nuclear Physics in 1957 under the “Nuclear Father of Pakistan”, Prof. Rafi M. Chaudhri, the Head of the Department of Physics at country’s top educational institution, the Government College, Lahore. Prof. Chaudhri taught him the nuclear physics and also supervised the M.Sc. thesis in experimental nuclear physics using 1.2 MeV Cockcrof-Walton Nuclear Accelerator installed at the College. The thesis was on the nuclear – reactions when the protons from this accelerator strike the nuclear target of Lithium produce a nuclear reaction, breaking the nucleus of Lithium. Prof. Chaudhri had done his Ph.D. in 1932 in the laboratory of “Worlds Nuclear Father” Prof. Lord Rutherford.

The author did his Ph.D. thesis (1961-65) on crystalline materials using experimental nuclear techniques using the Mossbauer effect under the supervision of famous nuclear scientist Prof. P. B. Moon, FRS. Head of the Physics at the University of Birmingham in UK. Prof. Moon earlier was an important member of the U.K.’s team of the Manhattan Project and was on sight for measuring nuclear radiation emitted during the explosion of USA’s first Atomic Bomb at Almogordo, New Mexico. Prof. Moon also had done his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in the nuclear laboratory of Lord Rutherford, as a contemporary of Prof. R. M. Chaudhri. The author passed also one year course in nuclear physics from Prof. W. E. Burcham, FRS, the famous Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Birmingham University and who wrote a well known globally used text book on nuclear physics. Prof. Burcham was also a student of Rutherford.

During the same period the author learned the course on the Theory of Solids from Prof. R. E. Peierls, FRS, a leading member in the Manhattan Project and who was Head of the implosion device being developed under this project in early 40’s. Thus at Birmingham University during his studies for Ph.D. (1961-65) the author was lucky to be a student of three FRS, the world known nuclear professors whose names form part of the nuclear history of the world. Later the author had a rich and full interaction with a large number of nuclear and material scientists of over 25 countries during his lectures and seminars at the laboratories of these countries of the East and the West.

The author was therefore fortunate to spend a span of his life full of nuclear experience within Pakistan and abroad.

In writing the present brief article, he is therefore in a pleasant situation to record nuclear education and the development of Nuclear Science and Technology in Pakistan, a large part from his personal life devoted to the Nuclear development of Pakistan. The author spent all his active research life of about 30 years at the country’s premier nuclear research Institute, PINSTECH, the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology in Islamabad. Passing through various stages of the ladder in the hierarchy of PINSTECH, he retired as Chief Scientist/Director General of this famous Institute of Pakistan which has a major and prominent share, by providing the necessary nuclear human resource and other help, in making Pakistan nuclear.

NUCLEAR STUDENTS OF PAKISTAN

The birth of nuclear science in Pakistan took place at the Physics Department of Government College, Lahore in 1948 when Prof. R. M. Chaudhri migrated from India to Pakistan, a year after Pakistan was created.

He was Professor of Physics at the Muslim University of Aligarh (former British India), now in India. Prof. R. M. Chaudhri migrated to Pakistan at the instance of letters of Prof. Mark Oliphant, Head of the Physics Department at the Birmingham University, UK (in the year 1947) written to Mr. M. A. Jinnah the first Governor General of Pakistan since the creation of Pakistan on 14th August, 1947. Prof. Oliphant, who was a senior contemporary researcher (and a sort of supervisor) of Prof. Chaudhri in Rutherford’s Laboratory, persuaded Mr. Jinnah to take  Prof. R. M. Chaudhri in Pakistan to get benefits of nuclear studies of such an experienced Muslim Scientist who desired to serve Pakistan. Both Oliphant and Rutherford had high opinions of Prof. Chaudhri’s scientific research. Mr. Jinnah arranged the service of Prof. Chaudhri at the Pakistan’s best educational institution, the Government College, Lahore offering him the best academic job in physics and at the salary of the maximum of the prevailing government pay-scales, a due honour paid to an educationist. Prof. Chaudhri with his dedication, devotion and hard work started establishing the nuclear laboratories at this institution in Lahore and soon, with in the next few years was able to get a nuclear accelerator, the 1.2 MeV Cockcroft Walton-Accelerator, a modern nuclear accelerator of the time and probably the best in Asia.

Through the nuclear experiments allocated as M.Sc. theses to his students, Prof. Chaudhri trained a large number of students in the nuclear field during the decades of 50’s – 60’s. These students obtained the first hand experience of essential nuclear techniques of radiation detection and also fabricating the nuclear equipment like nuclear radiation detectors, coincident circuits, ion sources, research on upto-date and the current nuclear topics of the time. Some of the theses supervised by him over the years are listed [Table-1].
Table-1: SOME ATOMIC AND NUCLEAR PHYSICS EXPERIMENTS AS M.Sc. THESES SUPERVISED BY PROF. R. M. CHAUDHRI

Sr. No. Session(M.Sc) Name of Student Thesis Title
1948-50 Ghias-ud-Din The construction of low voltage Geiger – Muller Counter.
1948-50 Mohammad Aslam Khan Geiger – Muller Counter for Detecting Low Energy Particles.
1951-52 Jafer Hussain Naqvi Anomalies of the absorption curve of cosmic rays in lead using anti-coincidence method.
1951-52 Mannan Yaseen The Secondary Emission from Oxide by positive ions.
1951-53 Said-ul-Hassan The Detection of Ionization of gass with Positive Ions using Geiger – Muller Tube.
1952-53 Iqbal Hussain Anomalies of the absorption of cosmic rays in lead.
1953 Sajid Abbas An Automatic Electronics Stablizer.
1953-54 Mohammad Nasim Study of Gamma Rays from Nuclear Reaction by Scintillation Counter.
1952-53 Fayaz-ud-Din Energy Loss of Mesons in Crystals.
1954 Abdul Wasey Omer To increase the sensitivity of the Geiger – Muller Counter for Radiations.
1953-54 Abdul Aziz The study of absorption of cosmic rays in different materials using coincidence method.
1953-54 Khursheed Ahmed Design and Construction of Apparatus for Production of Deuterium.
1954 Hamid Sultan-ur-Rashid To study the nuclear reaction B10 (n a) Li7 by the bombardment of slow neutrons on boron with photographic emulsion plate.
1954 Abdul Wasey Omer To increase the sensitivity of Geiger – Muller Counter for Radiations.
1953-54 Saadat Ali Khan Energy distribution of ions from Oliphant ion source with Hughes and Rojansky’s critical angle analyser.
1953-54 Maqsood Ali Shah Gilani The Construction of Boron trifluoride Proportional Counter for the Detection of slow neutrons.
1953-55 Qazi Ishtiaq Ahmed The study of Secondary Electrons Emitted from Metals by Primary Ions.
1953-55 Abul Hassan Ionization of Mercury Vapours by mercury ions.
1953-55 Miss Munawar Mansoor Scaling unit and probe circuit.
1953-55 Salah-ud-DinMohammad Rafi The study of the Characteristics of the Oliphant ion source of the 1.2 Million volt high tension set.
1954-55 Purvez Ahmed Butt The excitation of Hg vapour by low energy positive ions obtained from a radio frequency ions source.
1955 Abdul Ghaffar Khan Construction of Cloud Chamber
1955-56 Muhammad Aslam The detection of fast neutrons by Geiger – Muller Counter.
1955-56 John Mumtaz The measurement of Efficiency of Geiger – Muller Counter for gamma-rays.
1955-57 Muhammad Yunas The study of Fission Products with Geiger – Muller Counter.
1955-57 Ghulam Dastgir Alam Qasmi The Emission of Electromagnetic Radiations from metals by high energy particles.
1956-57 Miss Qaisera Shiraz The study of radiation from a Radium Beryllium Neutron source.
1957 Abdul Aleem Khan Detection of Beta particles from the Radiation Decay of neutron.
1956-57 Noor Mohammad Butt Energy Spectrum of Alpha – particles emitted by the bombardment of Lithium by the high energy protons.
1958-59 Abdul Rafey Faruqi the study of internal pair conversion in Au197 (Gold)
1961 Abdul Majid Chaudhri Emission of soft electromagnetic radiations from metals by the impact of Alpha particles.
1961-62 Abdul Majid Chaudhri To study the characteristics of halogen counters.
1961-62 Samar Mubarakmand Construction of a gamma-ray spectrometer.
1962-63 Mohammad Ibrahim The energy of Gamma rays by the radiative capture of neutrons.
1962-63 Javed Arshad Mirza Single crystal gamma-ray spectrometer.
1962-63 Mohammad Naeem Suputtering  by high energy positive ions.
1962-63 Muhammad Anwar Construction of a fast neutron scintillation spectrometer.
1963-64 Hameed A. Khan Ionization of Mercury by Alkali positive ions.
1963-64 Shahzad Hasan Construction of a fast neutrons scintillation spectrometer by the time of flight method.
1963-64 Muhammad Islam The study of effect of magnetic field on striations and throbbing in glow discharge.
1963-64 Zakir Hameed Construction of BF3 Neutron Detector.

These students were also given practical training in vacuum technology, glass blowing and in the mechanical and electronic workshops. These practical techniques were indeed very useful aspects for higher education and research in nuclear science and technology. These students after completing further advanced nuclear studies abroad mostly for their Ph.Ds and working for some years at home played a leading role in making Pakistan a nuclear country.

Here it is very important to emphasise that the devotion and the personality of Prof. Chaudhri had a great influence on his students and which inspired them to take up nuclear science, particularly the experimental nuclear science, as a later career. He took keen interest in imparting the technical skills to them with frequent interaction and discussions with them. Most often he used to work with them on the bench. Coupled with this dedication was his constant eye on the current research in nuclear physics and was most upto-date with the current developments in the field although nowhere else in Pakistan the research in atomic and nuclear physics was being conducted. This  he did not do only through the study of current journals but also by remaining in touch through regular personal correspondence with his peers and contemporary scientists across the world, particularly in the UK. Professor Chaudhri retired in 1963 from the Physics Department and the tradition of nuclear research was carried on by his student Prof. Tahir Hussain at this department who had earlier studies at the University of Oxford, UK for his Ph.D. in Experimental Nuclear Physics. There the nuclear radiation students were continued being produced from this department, so to say as second generation students of Prof. Chaudhri.

Thus the seriousness of research in atomic and nuclear physics of international high quality became hall-mark of the Physics Department of the Government College, Lahore particularly in 50’s and 60’s and many of these students thus were able to play a seminal role in the later years of nuclear development in Pakistan.

HIGHER NUCLEAR HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT

During the decade of 60’s an important part was played by Dr. I. H. Usmani who was the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC)  from 1960 to 1972, a period of great importance to develope the high quality important “nuclear human resource” at the higher echelon of creating “research-leaders”. Dr. I. H. Usmani was a great visionary and his eyes looked several decades ahead into the future.

Dr. I. H. Usmani as the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and Prof. A. Salam (who later in 1979 became Nobel Laureate in Physics) as Science Advisor to the President of Pakistan in those years launched a very successful scheme of training young persons for their Ph.D’s abroad. Several hundred young talented persons in various fields pertaining to the area of nuclear science and technology, mostly the physics students trained in the nuclear laboratories of Prof. Chaudhri, were selected by Dr. Usmani and sent in various branches of nuclear requirements for their Ph.D’s abroad mostly in UK, Canada, Australia, USA and France in early years of 60’s. These highly trained persons came back by the end of 60’s or early 70’s at the newly established nuclear institute., under the name of PINSTECH where the major nuclear facility was the 5MW Swimming Pool Research Reactor. This research reactor was Pakistan’s first reactor and was one of the latest nuclear facilities of the type. PINSTECH, a brain child of Salam and Usmani, during 70’s and 80’s flourished with foreign trained nuclear scientists specialized in various important disciplines (such as Nuclear Physics, Nuclear Engineering, Nuclear Electronics, Nuclear Safety, Health Physics, Nuclear Metallurgy, Reactor Physics, Laser Physics, Nuclear Chemistry and also Nuclear Engineers (trained in operation, design and maintenance of reactors).

In addition Dr. Usmani trained a large number of nuclear engineers to plan and operate the nuclear power reactors in the power hungary Pakistan for using nuclear technology in the area of electricity generation. He arranged to install one Candu type Power Reactor (137 MW) at Karachi built by the Canadians. This reactor became critical in 1972. A similar power reactor was planned for the then East Pakistan (at Roopur) which then became Bangladesh, a new country in 1972 and this project was closed.

Dr. Usmani was also responsible for establishing several Nuclear Medical Centres as well as a couple of Nuclear Agriculture centres for research and Nuclear Mineral Centres for exploration and refinement of Uranium in Pakistan. One important factor, which was never relaxed by Dr. Usmani, was the selection of the scientists on high merit. The result was, when these talented and highly trained and qualified scientists and engineers after completing their training abroad returned to Pakistan, they formed a very solid ground and a strong back-bone for the nuclear Pakistan. Dr. Usmani is thus regarded as a man of great reverence in visualizing and producing highly trained nuclear manpower of the PAEC in Pakistan. Particularly the scientists at PINSTECH not only had a good chance of establishing new nuclear laboratories in various essential disciplines for the progress of PAEC, but it also created an enviable meritorious science culture in Pakistan. It also helped Pakistan’s Universities in sharing the scientific expertise with these Universities and other organisations requiring specialised services in the high technology areas not available at other places except in PAEC. Dr. Usmani retired in 1972 but he left a great nuclear resource in the form of highly trained nuclear scientists and engineers and a few important establishments like, PINSTECH at Islamabad (the premier mother- R & D Institute), KANUPP at Karachi (the 137 MW Nuclear Power Reactor), the Nuclear Mineral Centre at Lahore and the Nuclear Medicine and Nuclear Agriculture Centres in various cities in Pakistan. Dr. Usmani’s contributions in the nuclear programme of Pakistan were very fundamental and his period of leadership of PAEC during (1960-1972) is the “living period” of nuclear history of Pakistan.

Another very important period in the nuclear history of Pakistan was a period of 19 years from (1972-1991) during which Mr. Munir Ahmed Khan, a nuclear engineer, was the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. This was a long and a very important period for Pakistan, because in this period lot of expansion of nuclear facilities took place, making a judicious use of the manpower trained in the earlier period. After India’s second – nuclear explosion in early May, 1998 (the First Indian nuclear test was made in May 1974) Pakistan was forced to respond to the Indian nuclear explosion as a measure of “Self Nuclear Defense” due to the imminent threat to its security because of the Indian nuclear explosions. Previous history of India’s enmity and sinister designs clearly proved that when India found very timely and successful it made a “direct militarily intervention” in the internal affairs of Pakistan and helped the local insurgent political parties in Dec. 1971 in breaking away half of Pakistan, the then East Pakistan and creating Bangladesh. This second time in 1998 the Indian threat to our security was again extremely serious, and Pakistan’s response in testing its nuclear weapon a few days later was forced, necessary and timely for its existence. Any other country would do the same under such circumstances.

Pakistan needed assurance of its security and the conventional weapons being excessively in strong favour of India, in case of any war, Pakistan’s strategic plans stressed the vital solution for preserving the security of Pakistan, to have the nuclear weapons as early as possible. So the period of second half of decade of 70’s and early 80’s was a very active period for Pakistan to carry on its both programmes on the peaceful applications as well as the programme for nuclear defense of Pakistan. The nuclear trained high quality manpower from PINSTECH played a crucial role on both fronts. It was a challenge and compulsion to carry on successfully these programmes. This fact explains how in May 98 could Pakistan do such a technically high quality nuclear explosion on a short notice (in about two weeks after Indian nuclear explosion) while on the whole the country is not so well advanced in education and high technology. The deterrence due to the nuclear explosion by Pakistan has saved Pakistan’s territorial integrity from the threat of Indian attack.

Although India initiated the nuclear weapon programme by exploding the device in May 1974, on the one hand the continuity of operation of nuclear reactor at Karachi (the largest city of Pakistan with population of about 10 million) for electric supply to the grid was in danger (as Canada stopped the supply of Candu Reactor) and on the other hand the whole nuclear programme for peaceful purposes (educational, agriculture and nuclear medicine for public health) was greatly hampered due to the embargo by the West policies. The embargo alerted the nuclear scientists and engineers of Pakistan and they adopted the strategy of using their own expertise and skills to make things indigenously which were previously purchased from the Western suppliers. The embargo by the West was therefore beneficial for developing in-house R & D in all high technology branches of nuclear technology. Consequently in the next 5 years or so after the stopping of reactor fuel supply, by Canada, for the 137 MW Candu Reactor at KANUPP in Karachi, the reactor fuel to the quality specifications of the Canadian fuel was fabricated at the materials laboratories of PINSTECH using the indigenous exploration of uranium and by early 80’s on this design a uranium-fuel factory was established at Kundian and by late 80’s the home made fuel was already being used in this reactor. Thus from 1988 all the fuel charge of the reactor was home – made. Since then, the reactor which was thought by Canada to close down within a year of the fuel-embargo, is being operated successfully till today with home-made fuel. This fuel fabrication technology gave the scientists and engineers a confidence to acquire further expertise in the area of nuclear technology. So the embargo policy of the West infact made Pakistan more nuclear capable rather than hindering its capability. This argument was made to the countries of the West much earlier but they were not in agreement with such an argument till they saw the success of Pakistan’s arguments. The Western embargo proved a “blessing in disguise” for Pakistan. These major developments in the nuclear field took place in the period (1972-1991) under the Chairmanship of PAEC by Mr. Munir A. Khan who expired in 1999 and will be remembered for his seminal contributions to the nuclear programme of Pakistan.

URANIUM EXPLORATION PROGRAMME

Uranium exploration and refinement plants designed and experimented at the R & D Centre in Lahore, were also indigenously established at D. G. Khan area in Pakistan and these plants used the local Uranium mined from this area.

Thus the nuclear fuel cycle was indigenously accomplished by the Pakistani scientists and engineers to the quality standards of the Western countries. The high quality R & D trained manpower was well prepared at PINSTECH and the allied laboratories.

POST GRADUATE NUCLEAR TRAINING CENTRE, ISLAMABAD

Another important step for indigenous human – resource development, a very essential part for the sustainability of a system, was the establishment of a nuclear training centre (in the early 70’s) to train the graduates (Physicists, Chemists, Metallurgists, chemical engineers, etc.) of the local universities for higher degrees in nuclear technology (two year M.Sc.). By the year 2002 this training school has been awarded a charter of a university and is giving Ph.D. degrees as well. This is a great human resource for the PAEC and has strengthened its sustainability by providing  a few thousand high quality nuclear engineers and scientists and technicians.

This training centre formely known as Centre for Nuclear Studies (CNS) has taken a new name of the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) and is country’s premier centre and provides graduates of academic quality accepted in the US Universities with the equivalence to their M.S. This institute now provides M.Sc. degrees in nuclear technology, system’s engineering and nuclear medicine. The institution also provides special short-term courses in various disciplines of nuclear technology like vacuum technology, nuclear safety and training of technicians. The graduates of this institute are given extensive courses in radiation handling in all Nuclear Laboratories and Nuclear Power Stations and Research Reactors and almost all of them are given employment in various laboratories of PAEC throughout Pakistan. Another similar nuclear training centre more geared towards higher Nuclear Engineering training for employment mostly in Nuclear Power stations has been setup in Karachi. This centre called KINPOE awards two years M. Sc. degrees in Nuclear Engineering to the graduates.

PAKISTAN INSTITUTE OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (PINSTECH)

   The nuclear R & D base of the scientists who shifted from the open research projects to the classified projects helped greatly in the successful and efficient completion of these classified projects for nuclear defense. Therefore the useful out come of this approach is that R & D base is necessary for classified projects and the PINSTECH, which houses over 2000 employees is the main academic research institute and publishes high quality basic and applied research in international journals as well as prepares leadership manpower for open and classified projects. PINSTECH also produces Ph.D. research and the degrees are awarded to the students by various universities in the country where ever the students get registration for the Ph.D. degree. All the research and supervision is done by PINSTECH scientists. The standard of Ph.D. theses is maintained high as the theses are also examined by professors of the advanced western countries.

PINSTECH is also a source of inspiration to science research in the universities in Pakistan because of its tradition of good quality basic research. There is a close collaboration and interaction between PINSTECH and the universities in the country.

In addition, R & D at PINSTECH has helped in solving the problems of high technology industry, like precision machine industry,  testing of materials, oil industry in identifying leakage in pipe lines, helping agriculture industry, in water management and for supplying the radioisotopes to 12 nuclear medical centres in Pakistan. In these centres annually about 300,000 patients are handled for diagnostic of cancer and radiation therapeutic purposes. Thus civil uses of the nuclear research, whether open or classified have been extensively made in the nuclear technology.

It is important to mention that nuclear safety has been strictly enforced into the Pakistan Atomic Commission’s charter and it is fortunate to say that over a period of several decades no nuclear accidents have taken place at the nuclear establishments of Pakistan. While carefully trained health physicists and radiation handling experts help in keeping good nuclear safety standards, there is an independent Nuclear Regulatory Board for examining the projects of PAEC for safety standards of the plants to be installed.

PINSTECH played an unassuming and a subtle role in the success of the nuclear programme of Pakistan. All the leaders of civil and classified nuclear programmes were provided by PINSTECH from time to time during the execution of the projects. These were highly qualified and experienced Ph.D persons trained by I. H. Usmani during his Chairmanship of PAEC (1960-1972) and concentrated at PINSTECH.

PINSTECH is a store house of R & D capabilities and has been a source of great academic strength of Pakistan in a similar manner as that provided by good universities in Europe, for example.

CIVILIAN NUCLEAR POWER

Among the prominent civil nuclear programme in addition to agriculture, medicine and industry, was the focus on the installation of nuclear power plants for electricity generation in Pakistan. Although such a programme was well thought of in early years of planning by the PAEC but this programme met a serious set back after the explosion of Atom Bomb by India in 1974. The 137 MW power reactor was built by Canada in 1972 in Karachi, but after the Indian nuclear explosion the sanctions on nuclear equipment were imposed by the West on Pakistan as well as on India ( which could alone be penalized as the initiator of the nuclear race in South Asia). The world thought that the natural outcome of the Indian explosion would be the initiation of the nuclear weapon programme by Pakistan to safeguard her security concerns. The world was correct and Pakistan initiated the nuclear programme soon after but the non-cooperation of the West not only was applied to nuclear defense equipment but also to the supply of nuclear power plants in Pakistan. Although the PAEC floated international tenders for purchase of nuclear power plants, for many years no suppliers came forward. It was in 1990 that China showed interest to build a 300 MW PWR type nuclear power plant in Pakistan and the contract was signed in December, 1991 to build 300 MW nuclear power reactor at Chashma a few hundred Km from Islamabad.

After completion of this reactor the Chinese have handed it over to Pakistan in September, 2000 and it is operating well. The reactor has been built by the Chinese on turn-key basis but under the technical approval of highly experienced and competent nuclear engineer Mr. Parvez Butt (Member (Power) at the time and now Chairman of PAEC, on behalf of PAEC) who alongwith his team of well qualified and experienced nuclear engineers, has been heavily involved for the this project. During the construction of the reactor, intensive interaction was all the time taking place between the Chinese and the Pakistani nuclear engineers. Some of the equipment of this reactor was however fabricated by PAEC under sub-contracting arrangements to specifications of international quality. The 137 MW Candu reactor in Karachi and the 300 MW PWR reactor at Chashma form only 3 % of the present electricity production in Pakistan. Pakistan is much insufficient in indigenous petrol and gas and larger part of hydro resources have been used for electricity production. The need of nuclear power reactors is therefore a dire need for Pakistan’s electricity requirements. Pakistan is already deficient with respect to the world average and per capita energy consumption is even much less than the average per capita electricity consumption of the developing countries (1/5th of the average of the developing world). The role of nuclear technology for the economic uplift of Pakistan is therefore very crucial. Nuclear power, being a cleaner source of electricity production than oil or coal fired thermal power plants, has the preference. Therefore in the interest of raising the standard of living of the people of Pakistan, the Western world has to see in what way their embargo on civil nuclear technology for Pakistan can be lifted.

NUCLEAR SAFETY IN PAKISTAN

The world rightly is concerned with the safety of nuclear stock piles as well as the safety of civil nuclear systems like spent fuel of nuclear reactors, nuclear waste from nuclear laboratories etc.

Safety culture in nuclear establishments of Pakistan was given a very high priority even at very early stages when the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was established during the launching of 1950’s programme for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Chairman I. H. Usmani while planned for the development of the nuclear Human Resource in various of fields of nuclear science and technology, simultaneously planned for training of scientists and engineers in the field of health physics and nuclear safety. These highly qualified scientists several of them qualified with Ph.D. degrees in health and radiation physics in the area of nuclear safety were the essential part of all nuclear establishments right from the early times. A separate nuclear safety directorate was established in the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission which was controlling the operation of research reactor at PINSTECH from early 60’s and all the nuclear installations like uranium exploration sites, nuclear power reactor at Karachi (137 MW Candu) and at Chashma (the Chinese 300 KW PWR) and research centres like PINSTECH at Islamabad, Mineral Centre in Lahore and Nuclear Agricultural and the Nuclear Medical Centres at various places in Pakistan.

The directorate of nuclear safety acted independently under the umbrella of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and was well respected in the observance of its instructions. The International Atomic Energy Commission was all these years in regular association with the directorate of nuclear safety and was well satisfied with the nuclear safety standards being implemented in the nuclear laboratories of the PAEC. Regular inspections for all these years were made by the IAEA inspectors at all these laboratories. Later on and now this directorate of nuclear safety works as an autonomous Nuclear Regulatory Board, with scientists of PAEC and of outside organisations, like the universities, as its members and regulates the nuclear safety requirements according to international standards set up by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The civil nuclear programme is therefore being well looked after from the point of view of the nuclear safety requirements as specified by IAEA. The Safety Culture being strictly followed however has therefore been an important land mark in the PAEC due to the highly trained scientists in this area. This has paid its dividends also in the sense that fortunately no nuclear accidents have occurred over several decades of the existence of nuclear programme in Pakistan.

NUCLEAR WASTE MANAGEMENT

The public and technical concern for nuclear technology, both for civil as well as military use has great concern about the radiation hazards to mankind from the waste from nuclear use. Particularly great fears are hovering regarding the waste from radioactive materials which emit radiation spanning over thousands of years like Pu. Although the long lived radioactive elements decay with time but some of these waste products may have half-lives extending upto hundreds and thousands of years emitting nuclear radiations all this long time. Therefore the containment of these elements in a secure future is an important matter. Research is actively in progress to devise new materials which can be safe for such long times or the nuclear reaction processes using nuclear particles from accelerators which may convert the long-life elements to short life elements to fall with in the realm of developed materials which can be useful for safe containment for long time.

The nuclear waste can be classified as “high -active” waste and “low–active” waste, the former being the case where the country has many power reactors where the used nuclear fuel of reactors needs large scale reprocessing or if there is a very large nuclear weapon complex. In Pakistan, there are only two power reactors with 137 MW and 300 MW electric generating capacity. Therefore the reprocessing waste problem is not of significant concern. Also the nuclear enrichment and nuclear defense waste is not on a very large scale to be of any significant alarm. The future expansion of nuclear weapons being limited because of CTBT, NPT considerations, although Pakistan is not a signatory to these treaties as yet, the nuclear waste is not expected to be of significant concern.

The civil nuclear waste due to research uses in radioactive laboratories lies in the range of low activity waste and is safely manageable in decay pits according to standard IAEA design and regulations and which are being regularly inspected by the agency inspectors.

With regard to environment pollution due to radioactivity from low-activity waste the nuclear establishments are handling this waste strictly in accordance with the IAEA safety standards for waste exhaust in air and deposit waste on land. Proper filters are used before the exhaust of radioactive gases into the atmosphere. Regular checks on environmental radioactivity measurements are made by the health-physics experts for various areas in air and on the ground around these nuclear establishments. The soil and food samples in the area are regularly monitored for radioactivity.

THE PAKISTAN ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION

For the above nuclear programme in the main organisation; is the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).

The PAEC covered a wide range of nuclear technology consisting of programme for Power Reactors, nuclear applications in Agriculture, Medicine and Industry.

The extensive programme of the nuclear fuel cycle is the back bone of the nuclear technology in Pakistan and the basic R & D, leading to pilot plants and later adopted on factory scale, was done at the two research centres, the Atomic Energy Mineral Centre in Lahore and the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) in Islamabad which has also acted as a supplier of high quality human resource to almost all the main civil and nuclear defense projects in Pakistan.

While the PAEC acquired full mastery over the “front-end” of the nuclear fuel cycle it acquired a reliable capability on the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and that involves the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing technology. The nuclear programme of Pakistan therefore acquired a reliable indigenous capability which was largely acquired as a necessity in view of the restrictions and embargos imposed by the advanced countries.

The successful execution of the nuclear projects has given confidence to Pakistan of acquiring capabilities in other  programmes like, heavy water production, research reactor fabrication, nuclear instrumentation etc.

POLITICAL GOVERNMENTS AND NUCLEAR PROGRAMME

Since its inception in the fiftees the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has been encouraged in expanding the use of nuclear science and technology for the public benefits. When Gen. Ayub Khan came into power as President of Pakistan in late 50’s, the programme got good support. With the appointment of Dr. I. H. Usmani (a beurocrat with a Ph.D in atomic physics from the Imperial College, London) as Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 1960, the programme although for civil use sprang up in great dimensions for Nuclear Power Plants, Nuclear Agricultural Centres, Nuclear Medical Centres and for Nuclear Applications in Industry and other uses in general. Importance of this programme was further enhanced as Prof. A. Salam (Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1979) was appointed as Scientific Advisor to the President of Pakistan. All political Government have supported the nuclear programme of Pakistan both for peaceful purpose as an important aspect of public welfare and as key issue of security of Pakistan regarding nuclear defense.

CONCLUSION

This brief paper depicts the importance of the Nuclear Radiation Education in Pakistan and the importance of this Nuclear Education for the over all nuclear Science and Technology programme of Pakistan.

I am greatly indebted to Prof. George Marx for inviting me to present this paper and for the financial help extended by the organizers in hosting my stay.  It was a pleasure to chair a session of the Conference

The help of the staff of the office of Scientist Emeritus at PINSTECH provided by its Director General Dr. A. Ghaffar in the preparation of this paper is greatly acknowledged.

Paper presented at the 2nd International Congress on Radiation Education, Debrecen, Hungary, 20-25 August, 2002.