Nuclear power plans for Africa, Middle East

- Many countries in Africa and the Middle East have said they want to develop civilian nuclear programs to meet rising power demand.

Nuclear is seen by many as a long-term solution to high fuel costs and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector.

A fall in fossil fuel prices since summer 2008 has made nuclear power less attractive than it was when oil was above $147 a barrel in July 2008. South Africa is the only country in the region with an operational nuclear power plant.

Below are the nuclear aspirations of countries across Africa and the Middle East.


Algeria aims to build its first commercial nuclear power station by around 2020 and to build another every five years after that, energy minister Chakib Khelil said in February.

He said Algeria had atomic energy agreements with Argentina, China, France and the United States and was also in talks with Russia and South Africa.

"Towards 2020 we will probably have our first reactor and we'll probably have a reactor every five years after that," he said.

The OPEC member has plentiful oil and gas reserves but wants to develop other energy sources to free up more hydrocarbons for export. Algeria has big uranium deposits and two nuclear research reactors but no uranium enrichment capacity.

Algeria and China agreed in 2008 to cooperate on developing civilian nuclear power. It also has atomic energy agreements with several other countries.


Egypt announced plans to build several nuclear reactors to meet rising power demand in 2007. China, Russia, France and Kazakhstan have all offered to cooperate in building them.

Egypt signed a deal in June with Australia's WorleyParsons for nuclear power consultancy.

Industry observers have suggested the United States could be willing to help Egypt develop its nuclear program if Egypt gave up the right to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, processes that can be used to make weapons-grade nuclear materials.


Russia plans to start up Iran's first nuclear power station in March 2010 to coincide with the Iranian New Year.

Tehran says the 915-megawatt Russian-built Bushehr plant would only be used generating electricity in the world's fourth largest oil producer.

But the West accuses Iran of covertly seeking to make nuclear weapons. Iran has announced dates for starting the power plant in the past that have been missed.


The country plans to build a nuclear power plant by 2017. Jordan has signed cooperation agreements with France, China and Canada to co-operate on the development of civilian nuclear power and the transfer of technology.

Jordan had talks with French nuclear energy producer Areva in 2008 on building a nuclear power reactor.


Kenya's energy minister said in September 2008 the country was seeking investors to build a small nuclear plant to meet growing electricity needs.

East Africa's biggest economy currently has 1,100 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, compared with peak time demand of 1,050 MW.

Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi said the government was considering building a 1,000 MW plant and estimated it would cost about $1 billion.


Kuwait is considering developing nuclear power to meet demand for electricity and water desalination. It held talks with France's Areva earlier this year.

Nuclear power would save fuel that could be exported but which was being burned in power plants to generate electricity.


Moscow and Libya said in November 2008 they were negotiating a deal for Russia to build nuclear research reactors for the North African state and supply fuel.

Officials said a document on civilian nuclear cooperation was under discussion at talks between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Under the deal, Russia would help Libya design, develop and operate civilian nuclear research reactors and provide fuel for them.


Namibia, one of three countries in Africa besides Niger and South Africa producing uranium, plans to build a nuclear plant to supply the domestic market and the region.

"We are determined to build a nuclear plant both for Namibia and to trade power via the Southern African Power Pool," Namibia's deputy energy minister, Bernhardt Esau, said in February.

The southwest African country faces a shortfall of power and imports electricity from neighbouring South Africa, which has its own electricity supply problems. The Namibian government is setting up a regulatory system with the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide the legal framework to build a nuclear plant.

Esau said the country had general talks with Areva but would launch a tender process to select a company to build the plant.


Niger, one of the world's top uranium producers, plans to build a nuclear power station to help solve an energy shortage in the region, an advisor to the minister of energy said in February.

The country planned to ask South Africa, the only country on the continent with a nuclear plant so far, to help.


Initial Qatari interest in nuclear power plants has waned with the fall in international oil and gas prices, a Qatari official said in November 2008.

"It is less economically viable now, and less attractive. The potential costs are changing with the turmoil in financial markets, the economic slowdown and development of alternative fuels," Yousuf Janahi, manager of business development at Qatar's state-owned power company Kahramaa, said.

If Qatar decided to go ahead with building a nuclear plant, feasibility studies showed it would be unlikely to bring a reactor into operation before 2018.

French power giant EDF signed a memorandum with Qatar in early 2008 for cooperation on development of a peaceful civilian nuclear power program.


France and Saudi Arabia said earlier this year they were close to finalizing a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement, while the United States and Russia are also interested in helping the world's top oil exporter to develop nuclear energy.

The Gulf Cooperation Council — a loose economic and political alliance of six Arab states including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the UAE — said in 2007 it was studying a joint nuclear energy program.


The South African government expects the country's next nuclear power plant to be up and running by 2020.

State-owned power utility Eskom operates Africa's sole nuclear powered plant with a total capacity of 1,800 MW.

Nuclear is a major part of South Africa's energy diversification plan to reduce its heavy reliance on coal, which now supplies most of its electricity.


The United Arab Emirates recently awarded a South Korean consortium the contract to build four power plants with total capacity of 5,600 megawatts.

The contract calls for the first plant to come on line in 2017 and for all four reactors to be completed by 2020. The plants will be the first nuclear generation plants in the Gulf Arab region.

The UAE said it expected to order more nuclear power plants in the future.


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