Saudis look to nuclear for local power demand

SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi Arabia has an annual electrical power demand growth rate of about 8. The country's generation capacity has risen from 43,000 MW in 2009 to 46,000 MW in 2010 and is expected to rise to 65,000 MW by 2018.

The rapidly increasing power and water shortfalls in Saudi Arabia have forced the power sector to explore all resources of energy, including nuclear energy.

Saudi Arabia launched activities to build capacity and resources for the use of nuclear energy 20 years ago and in April 2010 the government gave the go-ahead to build the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy to manage and build programs for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the country.

Saudi Arabia considers nuclear energy the most effective solution among energy resources to cope with the steep growth in demand. Saleh Al Awaji deputy minister of water and electricity said in statement that studies will continue on nuclear energy options, as costs of renewable energy are still very high compared to conventional sources. Saudi Arabia aims to take measures to retain its oil resource wealth, as currently the electricity generation sector consumes about 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent daily.

Many international companies have announced their interest in supporting the Saudi nuclear program. In France Bertrand Barré, scientific advisor to the chairperson of Areva S.A., said that Saudi met all the conditions that would encourage international companies to form strategic alliances for a nuclear build program.

Daniel Roderick, senior vice president of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, a joint venture between General Electric Company GE and Japan's Hitachi Limited, said the company is also looking to secure contracts to deliver reactor technology, nuclear services, and nuclear fuel cycle services to Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year Saudi Arabia announced a joint initiative with Japan's Toshiba and U.S. firms, the Shaw Group and Exelon Corporation to build and operate at least two nuclear power plants in the country. If a project agreement is signed with those companies, Toshiba and Shaw would provide design, engineering, procurement and construction, while Exelon would provide operations and related services for the projects.


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