Kuwait to announce launch of nuclear program this year

Gulf state follows Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in plans to build nuclear reactors for energy purposes.

By KALINDI O'BRIEN / THE MEDIA LINE
September 13, 2010 10:13
2 minute read.
The reactor building of Bushehr nuclear power plant is seen just outside the city of Bushehr.

Bushehr Reactor 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Kuwait will build four nuclear reactors over the next 12 years, a national nuclear energy official said.

Ahmad Bishara, secretary general of Kuwait’s National Nuclear Energy Committee (KNNEC), said that Kuwait is planning to build four 1,000 megawatt reactors by 2022. Speaking to press in Tokyo, Bishara said construction will begin as early as January.

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The move would make Kuwait, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, the fourth Arab state to announce plans to build nuclear reactors for energy, after Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

“This is typical of the region,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, director of security and defense studies at the Gulf Research Center told Media Line. “Kuwait is following suit behind Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.”

“They need to do something,” Karasik said, pointing out that Kuwait faces an energy growth rate of some seven percent a year. “They will have to figure it out as they go along.”

Bishara, secretary general of Kuwait’s nuclear committee, said the country would be able to afford nuclear development so long as the price of oil remains relatively stable.

“Our initial analysis indicates that nuclear is viable as long as oil is above $45 to $50 a barrel,” he said in Tokyo on Friday, adding that it was not yet clear how nuclear energy “fits in the energy mix of Kuwait for the next 20 years.”

Tomoko Murakami, a nuclear analyst at the Institute of Energy Economics, told journalists in Tokyo that Kuwait faces a greater energy crises than its Arab neighbors.

“Kuwait’s need to develop its power infrastructure is greater than other Arab countries” Murakami said. “Summer power shortages are severe.”

The Kuwaiti government has been taking a number of steps over the past few months to boost there alternative energy capacity. In April, Kuwait signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with France. This week, Bishara signed an additional cooperation agreement with Japan to enlarge Kuwait’s long term nuclear capacity.

The agreement will bring with it lucrative contracts for Japanese firms. Kuwait is the second Arab country over the past year to sign a nuclear deal with an Asian state, following a deal signed between the United Arab Emirates and South Korea last December.

Arab countries have taken a number of initiatives in recent years to expand their alternative energy sources. Saudi Arabia made plans in July with two firms in the United States and one from Japan to begin construction on what will be the nation’s first nuclear power plant. Following suit, in August Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced the site of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant along the Mediterranean coast.
   
Oil exporting nations have a vested interest in finding alternative sources of energy so as to maximize their oil exports. By investing in alternative energy now, Arab states hope to see gains in oil exports in the future.




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