With the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, Kuwait is in a fortunate position. The problem is it has only 1 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves and gas is the fuel of choice for power generation projects.

About a quarter of Kuwait’s power is generated from gas. The rest is from oil. Besides the exorbitant cost, the use of fuel oil has a major environmental impact and Kuwait City is often shrouded in a brown haze.

In recent years the government has stepped up its search for additional gas feedstock supplies, but the cost and supply risk implications associated with importing natural gas has left it in a tricky position.

Kuwait took its first step along the nuclear route in 2009 when it established a national committee for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It then signed cooperation agreements with France, the US and Japan in 2010. It also hired two consultants to study the potential of six sites to host nuclear power projects. That report is set to be issued before the end of 2010.

Should the country’s nuclear programme go ahead as planned, Kuwait faces an ambitious schedule. It plans to launch tenders for one or two nuclear projects by 2013 and bring its first project online between 2020 and 2022.

This target may prove far out of reach. There are currently no nuclear power projects in operation in the GCC and only one under development. It is expected that the implementation of nuclear facilities will take some time as legal and regulatory frameworks need to be established. Complying with extensive safety guidelines is also a lengthy process.

Nuclear power may be the answer … but [Kuwait] will struggle to convert its ambitions into operational projects

Added to this, Kuwait has a history of protracted tender processes, delayed projects and a fractious parliament. Nuclear power may be the answer to Kuwait’s power needs, but it will struggle to convert its ambitions into operational projects. The state will need a lot of patience if it embarks on a nuclear programme.