Bahrain pushes ahead with nuclear plans

06 April 2010

Manama issues a request for expressions of interest to technical consultants

The government of Bahrain has issued a request for expressions of interest (EOI) to technical consultants to explore the development of a nuclear power plant in the kingdom.

A request for proposals (RFP) for technical consultants is expected to follow soon, although this will depend on ministerial approval, according to sources close to the project.

The EOI signals attempts by the government of Bahrain to speed up progress on developing a civilian nuclear power programme. A source close to the government of Bahrain says, “Bahrain is concerned that the supply chain for nuclear schemes will become congested as more projects are launched in the region.”

With power supply a pressing concern throughout the Middle East, Bahrain fears being left at the back of the queue for nuclear development unless it presses ahead with the its own scheme.

Already Jordan and Turkey have announced nuclear plans, following in the footsteps of the UAE which awarded a $40bn contract to a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) in December.

Another Manama based source adds, “There is a lot of talk about a nuclear project in Bahrain at the moment. The Foreign Affairs Ministry is involved as it is obviously a sensitive issue diplomatically.”

It is understood that no official timeline has been set for the project, but the source close to the government says that the RFP for technical consultants was planned to be issued around the beginning of the year, but this was delayed while it awaited ministerial approval.

In addition to the plans to appoint a technical consultant, Manama’s advisers have had exploratory talks with nuclear plant developers and export credit agencies about potential financing avenues for a nuclear project. One source at an export credit agency with experience of financing nuclear schemes confirms that they have been approached to gauge their interest in a nuclear project in Bahrain.

The government of Bahrain has set up a ministerial committee to look at developing a nuclear power scheme. This is being led by the Defence Ministry, with the Foreign Affairs Ministry currently leading a technical committee.

A source close to the Electricity & Water Authority (EWA) says the body currently has a limited role in the nuclear scheme, although once technical work on the project begins it will become more involved. EWA has established a renewable section which will work on the nuclear project, in addition to projects in the wind and solar sector.

Until a technical consultant is appointed and a study for the development of the plant is completed it is uncertain if Bahrain will be able to build a nuclear plant, or the size and cost of such a project. The Foreign Affairs Ministry and EWA did not respond to requests to comment.

In the UAE, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) is in talks with four banks as it seeks to appoint a financial adviser to help structure the development and financing of its 5,600MW nuclear power scheme.

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