Saudis Needs to Go Nuclear by 2020 to Keep Everyone Happy at Home

saudis-go-nuclear-to-keep-women-in-burkasHigh birth rates coupled with domestic subsidies have resulted in soaring energy demand. Now Saudi Arabia has turned to nukes to keep it all going.

Bucking a trend globally of abandoning or reversing plans for more nuclear power in reaction to the Fukushima disaster, Saudi Arabia is now hunting for a site to build its first nuclear plant.

Faced with skyrocketing energy demand at home that is already putting a serious dent in its oil exports, and even threatening future domestic supplies, the kingdom will complete the construction of its first nuclear power plant within the next nine years, a Saudi government official revealed at a nuclear conference in Dubai.

The kingdom has plans to build a total of 16 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years, spending an estimated $7 billion on each plant. The first will break ground by 2017 and take three years to build. Ibrahim Babelli, nuclear consultant at the King Abdullah Centre for Atomic and Renewable Energy said: “There are a lot of things that need to be done, but our target is 2020.”

The move is an attempt to conserve its gas and oil resources, the kingdom’s primary export. And its not just exports that need propping up with more energy.

With a growing population, domestic use is growing rapidly, for electricity and for seawater desalination, as well as for its heavily subsidized gasoline. The $112 billion investment, which includes capacity to become a regional exporter of electricity, will provide one-fifth of the Kingdom’s electricity for industrial and residential use and, critically, for desalinization of sea water, now supplied by oil.

The kingdom’s skyrocketing energy use at home is fueled by a combination of rapid growth in family size and the energy subsidies needed to dampen any possibilities of social unrest like that which toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Domestic oil consumption has long been heavily subsidized. In 2011, the Saudi government further increased its subsidies of energy supplies by $100 million for domestic use.  As a result, domestic oil use is projected to grow from 3.4 million barrels of oil a day in 2009 to 8.3 million barrels a day by 2028.

Going nuclear is one solution…

Solar is another:

Saudi Arabia to Replace Oil with Sun Power for Desalination Plants
It Must be Peak Oil Driving Saudis to Solar
Could Saudi Arabia Become the Saudi Arabia of Solar?

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4 thoughts on “Saudis Needs to Go Nuclear by 2020 to Keep Everyone Happy at Home”

  1. Xoussef says:

    I agree with Mr Babelli. Nuclear is risky, costly and kinda fossil, and the waste problem is a serious one, but with the right precautions and strict control and vigilance, it still is part of the answer to the world’s growing energy needs. I hope someday it could be replaced (or made a lot safer) but until then, solar and wind as we know now alone just won’t cut it.

    I might also add that Oil and gas are used to make many many chemicals that we depend on, and future generations will be depending on in the future. Burning them to make electricity is irresponsible when there are alternatives. We are a hydrocarbon economy on more than energy level. So the economy of that oil and gas might not be that bad an idea after all in the long run.

    Ps: the photo is somewhat uncalled for though 🙂

  2. Susan Kraemer says:

    Thank you for the terrific and detailed and informative corrections. I was quoting a very brief story with few facts from a local news source.

    May I contact you for future details?

    That is very interesting that so many other nations are also not going to reverse on nuclear power after Fukushima. You are right, I am wrong. I also have noted China’s even more ambitious nuclear plans than any other nation:

    Of course, you are not at earthquake risk in Saudi Arabia, but have you weighed future water needs, and how that will be adding to your desalination requirements? Would love to follow up with good quotes from you.

  3. Greetings,

    Your quote of what I said, and you further analysis, are reasonable. However, you have misquoted me and you have missed the point on several occasions.

    1. The first reactor construction phase should start around 2014 to have any realistic finish date by 2020.
    2. You cannot build a reactor in three years. That’s impossible.

    Wrong information or misinterpretation:

    1 You say: “Bucking a trend globally of abandoning or reversing plans for more nuclear power…”. The fact is that only three countries, out of about forty who have abandoned nuclear or decided to reverse the plans as a consequence to Fukushima, namely, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, and recently Belgium. The rest of the world is assessing the safety measures but forging ahead with nuclear. Japan restarted a nuclear power plant two days ago, Turkey announced the building of new four reactors with Russia, Bangladesh is doing the same for one reactor, the UK is moving ahead with its nuclear program, and there are currently three nuclear reactors under construction in the US. I can go on and on citing examples of more nations going nuclear, but the point is clear. Statistics don’t lie, I believe.

    2. There are no gasoline subsidy in Saudi Arabia, if you truly know what subsidy is and what are the true cost of extraction, refining and distribution. Gasoline is sold at cost, which means that that government makes no profit from it. It costs less than four dollars per barrel to deliver fuel to a power plant or to gas station. There is no subsidy. The key concern that you should be discussing, and which Saudi Arabia is discussing, is opportunity cost of fossil fuel being consumed locally, in power for example, and sold abroad.

    3. Sadly, you claim that the gasoline subsidy (which is not a subsidy as explained above) is used to dampen social unrest, whereas these prices for fuel have not increased for a very long time. On the contrary, they were reduced long time ago prior to anybody even dreaming about unrest in the region.

    4. Lastly, birth rate does not have much to do with increased power consumption. It is the increase in households that does, and this is due to the peculiar demographics of the region, not only Saudi Arabia, coupled with an absolute necessity to provide air-conditioning. Again, your oversimplification of the issue is in direct contrast with reality.

    In summary, if you do the math and estimate how many households will be added in the next twenty years, and then estimate how much power is needed to sustain those households, and provide jobs for the newly started family, jobs that need to be around industry (the only sector that has natural multiplier effect in terms of spurring on additional job, aside from tourism, again if you do the math), then energy consumption is a reality, with or without low energy prices. Having said the above, what options are left other than burning fossil fuel? If you say solar, I’d ask you again to do the math and estimate how many hours per day can solar provide power, and what type of solar installation would be needed to ensure metal processing is viable?

    It is so easy to dismiss what one understands not, but when faced with realities, not whims, one must act according to emotionless math and not whimsical parodies.

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