By Saima Durrani

The famous lines of US president John F Kennedy uttered half a century ago “Ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country” may seem bit clichéd now but the devotional pledge and undercurrents of selfless service embodied in his statement can still inspire anyone anywhere in the world eager to serve one’s motherland.

This notion of selfless service should resonate rather well with us who are still striving to achieve the cherished dream of seeing a prosperous Pakistan among the comity of nations.

Pakistan today faces formidable social, economic, and security challenges. Many nations have faced similar challenges in history and successfully turned them into opportunities through dedicated commitment of self less hard working individuals. Once effectively addressed, our challenges likewise offer unprecedented opportunities for transformational progress.


And if this dedication is coupled with capability in science and technology, the real engine for economic growth, we have the recipe for success at our hands.  Science and technology (S&T) are fundamental for social and economic progress in developing countries as they have been central in the progress and development of virtually all the nations of the world. Nuclear technology, a top notch specialty in its own domain offers a wide array of applications leading to the development push we all aspire. Moreover, in today’s geo-political scenario, the strategic and defense portfolio of any country is measured up against its potential economic viability. And it is the growth of this nexus of strong economy and defense which can guarantee a prosperous country.


It was no mere coincidence that despite initial problems, as early as 1956, an S&T set up the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission PAEC was established by the farsighted leaders to make use of the international trend of atoms for peace initiative of American president Eisenhower . This organization not only provided the scientific thrust intended for national development in agriculture, human health, energy& industry but also delivered when asked to make the motherland’s defense impregnable.


The Commission now holds sway over utilization of nuclear technology for a wide array of national development initiatives .Incidentally these initiatives are also key tools used to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). Out of the 17 SDGs of UN agenda, PAEC contributes to 11 of them through its dedicated setup of laboratories and institutes.


As nuclear technology is the most innovative way to improve agriculture practices, PAEC never lagged behind in this arena and recruited its first biologist way back in 1958 which was followed by the establishment of Radiobiology Division in early 60’s at Atomic Energy Centre, Lahore.

Subsequently, first full-fledged Atomic Energy Agriculture Research Center was established in 1962 at Tandojam which was followed by Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology (NIAB) in 1972 at Faisalabad, Nuclear Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at Peshawar in 1982 and National institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) in 1994.

The Commission took lead in utilizing nuclear technology to improve productivity by developing new crop varieties, pest control technologies, plant nutrition and water management, animal health and productivity and food decontamination and preservation.

Combining conventional breeding methods with mutation breeding, marker assisted selection and genetic engineering techniques , so far more than 150 crop varieties of cotton, wheat, rice, oilseed, pulses and fruits and vegetables have been developed  which are popular among the farming community of Pakistan.

These PAEC agriculture institutes have also   developed technologies to improve irrigation techniques that reduce water losses. Alternate cheap sources of nutrients have been identified to efficiently manage plant nutrition and reduced application of chemical fertilizers.

Exports play a vital role in the economy of a country and as our exports are mainly (70%) based on agriculture therefore any efforts in this sector contribute directly toward the development of Pakistan. Services are being provided by PAEC institutes for removal of contaminants from export commodities through irradiation, identification of aflatoxins and drug residues in food and dairy products and DNA based testing of basmati rice and genetically modified organisms.

Likewise, at Pakistan Radiation Services (PARAS), a subsidiary of PAEC, a 10 MeV, 20 kW E-Beam plant caters for sterilization of healthcare products manufacturing as well as fulfilling  the requirements of export food items to Australia, America, New Zealand, and other European countries.

In the human health domain, PAEC has been providing services in cancer care through use of radiation since 1960s. PAEC’s 60 years’ experience of designing, executing and operating cancer hospitals has resulted in 19 Atomic Energy Cancer Hospitals (AECHs) throughout Pakistan. One more hospital is under construction at Muzaffarabad, AJK. Patients receive high quality diagnostic and treatment facilities here.


AECHs are equipped with latest SPECT-CT Gamma Cameras, PET-CT Scanners, Cyclotrons, Radionuclide therapy and Theranostics facilities. Supportive radiology equipment like MRI, CT Scanner, digital X-ray, Mammography and ultrasonography/Color Doppler is also available.


These PAEC cancer hospitals are equipped with Linear Accelerators, Cobalt-60 Teletherapy, Cyber Knife, Brachytherapy, Digital Simulator and Treatment Planning System. Additionally these AECHs are equipped with up-to-date hematology, chemical and pathology laboratories to give diagnostic tests services along with treatment under one roof at these hospitals.


Production of electricity through nuclear power has evolved over the decades and nuclear reactors now being installed in the world are far superior to their predecessor in term of performance and safety.


PAEC currently operates six nuclear power plants at two sites generating 10 percent of electricity through nuclear of the country’s total and almost a quarter of its low-carbon electricity.Nuclear power generation is economically competitive in the power market of Pakistan. Among these six, four NPPs (C-1, C-2, C-3, & C-4) of cumulative 1,330 MWe capacity are located at the Chashma Nuclear Power Generating Station (CNPGS). Ground breaking for another similar plant named C-5 at Chashma has also taken place.

Two NPPs (i.e., K-2 & K-3) of the total 2,200 MWe capacity are operating near paradise point of mega polis Karachi. K-2 is operating commercially since May, 2021 and K-3 since April, 2022. During the year 2023, these six nuclear power plants supplied 22,372 million kWh to NTDC system.

An elaborate and diversified engineering set up of PAEC successfully caters to design, manufacturing & testing of mechanical equipment for medium and heavy industries in accordance with the International Codes and Standards especially for Power Plants, Chemical and Petrochemical Plants and other Industrial Projects for itself and the national industry. These setups are well equipped with modern engineering manufacturing and fabrication facilities geared toward attaining excellence.

A set up of PAEC,viz Heavy mechanical complex-3,HMC-3 is one of the largest industrial projects in the heavy engineering sector of Pakistan. One of PAEC entity National Centre for Non-Destructive Testing (NCNDT) is providing, inspection, testing, training, calibration, qualification, certification, condition assessment and root cause analysis services to PAEC and national industry to meet the requirements in accordance with local and international standards.

International collaboration  is highly valued by PAEC and this aspect is covered  mainly through technical cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA,  European  Organization for  Nuclear Research CERN and other such organizations  and also the scientific discourses of International Nathiagali Summer College INSC which help its manpower both personnel as well as students of its Human Resource Development institutes  to engage with the latest technologies and add to their  technical acumen.

Even this cursory summary of the scope and achievements of the organization presented here makes it clear that PAEC is uniquely placed to cater to national needs of both socio-economic development and strategic edge.  Whereas this special occasion of Yaum-e- Takbeer calls for renewing the self less dedication of PAEC personnel to remain motivated and strive to excel in both domains of national development in future as well, it also reiterates the critical support needed from all relevant stakeholders if we pledge to serve our nation and see it prosper.









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