Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 nuclear reactors by 2030


Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors by 2030, which could potentially cost more than $100 billion.

The Kingdom and its Gulf neighbors regard nuclear power as a way to meet rising electricity demand while reducing reliance on polluting fossil fuels, a Saudi-based newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Abdul Ghani bin Melaibari, coordinator of scientific collaboration at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy announced a plan for Saudi Arabia’s reactors.

“After 10 years we will have the first two reactors,” Mr. Melaibari told Arab News. “After that, every year we will establish two, until we have 16 by 2030.”

Saudi is striving to keep up with rapidly rising power demand and nuclear reactors will allow the Kingdom to boost its domestic energy capacity usage.

The country plans to cover 20 percent of its electricity needs using nuclear energy, Mr. Melaibari added.

He estimated the cost of each reactor to be around $7 billion, adding that the Kingdom is in the process of planning for the nuclear project while coordinating with specialized companies.

Many nations have taken a step back from nuclear plans following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. But oil-rich Gulf States are pursuing their plans with major investments in nuclear power.

Neighboring United Arab Emirates in December 2009 awarded a South Korean consortium the contract to build four nuclear power plants worth $20.4 billion, reported Reuters.

The UAE was also recently reported to be weighing options of the long-term storage of nuclear waste from the country’s proposed nuclear power plant.

The Fukushima disaster following the Japan tsunami and earthquake has also made it more critical for new nuclear nations to lay out schemes for waste disposal.

The UAE is considering an underground cave that could hold radioactive uranium and plutonium for thousands of years. The cave would come at a high cost but has been widely recommended by scientists.

Finland and Sweden are currently on track to build waste sites, while America’s planned site in Nevada has been abandoned since May due to insufficient funding from the federal budget.

The UAE cave would be shared with other nations from the region, although the Emirates has not yet held formal talks with other states about the investment. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are the clear choices as they plan for their own civil nuclear programs.

In Saudi Arabia, power demand in the top oil exporter is estimated to grow seven to eight percent during the next 10 years. It is the largest economy of the GCC, with an annual GDP of $622 billion and a GDP per capita of $24,200.

(Eman El-Shenawi, a writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at [email protected].)