Saudi Arabia debates safety of nuclear power post Fukushima

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Nuclear energy and the challenges and opportunities it poses for new comer countries such as Saudi Arabia was the focus of the opening session of the Saudi Water and Power Forum (SWPF) in Saudi Arabia.

The discussion mainly focused on lessons that could be learned from the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, in March following a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Safety is essential when Saudi Arabia would plan to build nuclear power plants. I recommend that the Kingdom would need to have water proof rooms, evacuation zones and assemble a national or international response team to deal with possible emergencies,” said Shatilla.

Agreeing that safety is paramount, Al-Sulaiman said: “We need to invest in stations to meet growing demand for electricity. To do this we are looking to use nuclear and solar energy.”

Recent media reports stated the Kingdom would build as many as 16 nuclear reactors by 2020. This number has not officially been decided on yet, according to KACARE. The Saudi Electricity Company estimates the Kingdom will need as much as 2000MW per year to meet the demand that is increasing by 7 percent annually.

Nonetheless, GE Hitachi Senior Vice President Daniel Roderick says it shouldn’t take 10 years to build a single reactor. He stated that the company could complete a plant using a 39-44.5 month construction schedule.

Shatilla explained the reason why the region’s richest holder of renewable resources would need to look to nuclear power for its energy needs.

South Korea, China and Russia are all building nuclear reactors because energy sources such as oil and gas are too expensive. This is pointing to the use of nuclear energy as the most affordable source of supplying energy needs.”

He concluded that it would cost $1 million of oil to operate a 1000MW plant.  “Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been working to invest in renewable energy to make it available for the next generation,” Shatilla concluded.

Source: Arab News

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