In the wake of a 6-day trip by China’s Premier Win Jiabao to Saudi Arabia, China and Saudi Arabia have forged an alliance on developing nuclear power. Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with China for assistance in the development of nuclear power, using the last of its oil wealth to invest in the most controversial form of a low carbon energy future for its energy hungry nation.
In 2010, the Kingdom established the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) to develop low carbon sources of energy, prompting us to ask: Who’s Going Nuclear in the Middle East?
Then in June of 2011, at the annual Gulf Environment Forum, the Kingdom announced plans to commit more than $100 billion over the next 20 years to develop a civil nuclear program.
The Kingdom plans to build 16 nuclear reactors at a projected cost of $7 billion each, according to an announcement by Abdul Ghani bin Melaibari, KACARE Coordinator of Scientific Collaboration.
We covered it in a previous story: The Middle East Nuclear Power Boom Without Toxic Waste Strategy.
The Saudis could not have picked a better partner than China, which is working on the most ambitious plans in the world to boost its nuclear energy capability by 2035 is so far beyond other nations, that it bears no resemblance to its 2008 levels.
When China plans a move into a low-carbon form of energy it does not hesitate. It is already the world leader in hydro, and recently overtook the US to become the world leader in wind power.
It has begun building 27 nuclear reactors and will have 100 or more by 2030, which would amount to nearly a quarter of the 432 reactors in operation now.
China is pursuing alternatives to the traditional uranium-fueled nuclear power – such as reactors that run on thorium fuel, or that use unconventional designs such as fast neutron, molten salt and pebble bed.
Some nuclear experts believe that these new unconventional designs are potentially safer and more efficient than the traditional water cooled uranium-fueled reactors that have remained unchanged since the nuclear age.
Previously Saudi Arabia has been in talks with the French on developing the more traditional uranium power.