Saudi Arabia intends to become a leader in renewable energy by building 16 nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 22GW, which is about half of the Kingdom’s current electricity output. The project is estimated to cost of more than $100 billion.
Abdul Ghani bin Melaibari, coordinator of scientific collaboration at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, confirmed the plan, adding that the first two reactors would be ready within 10 years.
However, he pointed out the cost building nuclear reactors in the Kingdom would be comparatively higher because of its extreme hot climate. He also stressed the need to train Saudis to operate and maintain such plants.
Melaibari said the cost of building and operating nuclear plants in France, Russia, South Korea and Japan differs from one country to another, depending on the technology they adopt, infrastructure facilities in place and the availability of cheap manpower.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors regard nuclear power as a way to meet rising electricity demand while reducing reliance on polluting fossil fuels, say analysts.
“After 10 years we will have the first two reactors,” Melaibari told Arab News. “After that, every year we will establish two, until we have 16 by 2030. We would like to cover 20 percent of electricity needs using nuclear energy.”
He estimated the cost of each reactor to be around $7 billion, adding that the Kingdom is in the process of concluding deals with specialized companies to implement the project.
Many nations have taken a step back from nuclear plans following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. But GCC states are pursuing their plans with major investments in nuclear power.
The UAE in December 2009 awarded a South Korean consortium the contract to build four nuclear power plants worth $20.4 billion.
Power demand in Saudi Arabia 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.