The award of a $40bn contract to develop nuclear power stations in the UAE has brought atomic energy to the top of the agenda in the region’s power sector. Almost every country in the region is now looking at the potential for nuclear power production.
Bahrain, fearing it will be left behind in the move to adopt nuclear power, has decided it must push ahead quickly with its own plans to avoid being last in a long queue of nuclear development projects in the region.
With the list of potential nuclear schemes already quite long, and little local experience in developing costly and potentially dangerous reactors, progress could be agonisingly slow, even for first movers such as Abu Dhabi.
So far Bahrain is aping the UAE’s successful approach by first launching the project through diplomatic channels such as the foreign affairs and defence ministries, rather than through technical channels, such as the Electricity & Water Authority (EWA).
Once the diplomatic groundwork on the thorny issue of nuclear development is complete, then serious technical work can begin.
But Bahrain faces a number of issues. Lacking the wealth of Abu Dhabi, it will be a greater feat to finance the expensive scheme. It also has less land, which means the planned plant will be near to the main areas of population.
All of these issues will be critical as plans for the development move forward, and success is by no means guaranteed. So far the EWA has been more preoccupied with studies to harness wind and solar energy. Its enthusiasm for joining the nuclear race may be limited.
Sources in Bahrain say long periods of deliberation at the ministerial level have already put significant hold ups on progress to moving ahead with technical work.
Bahrain also has a much more complicated parliamentary process that could slow things up further. Even a fast-track approach is unlikely to produce any results quickly.