Kuwait moves ahead with nuclear plan

30 November 2010

The state plans to have one or two nuclear power projects operational by 2020

Kuwait has launched a feasibility study into the development of nuclear power at six potential sites.

The decision is the latest sign of a race to develop nuclear power in the region.

The feasibility study is currently under way and will assess sites in Subiya, Doha and southern Kuwait to host nuclear power facilities.

AFNI France Nuclear and US-based Lightbridge are undertaking the study and will present a final draft report of their findings to the government in December.

Kuwait will start with one or two nuclear power projects, which may be increased to include new schemes

The study was launched to assess factors including the quality of the seawater and distance from residential areas to determine which sites are appropriate for the country’s first nuclear power projects.

The size of the projects is yet to be determined, but each would have a capacity of at least 1GW to ensure that the projects are economically competitive.

Initial plans

Kuwait will start with one or two nuclear power projects, which may be increased  to include further schemes at a later date, says Suhaila Marafi, director of the Electricity & Water Ministry’s department of studies and research.

Kuwait’s installed capacity
Source: Electricity & Water Ministry

Kuwait expects to bring its first nuclear project online between 2020 and 2022 if it makes firm commitments to build out nuclear capacity and launch tenders for the projects by 2013.

Ahmad Bishara of Kuwait’s National Nuclear Energy Committee (KNNEC) recently stated that the country was considering the development of four nuclear power plants with a capacity of 1,000MW each. Bishara said that there will be a formal plan for the scheme prepared by January 2011.Kuwait has signed several nuclear cooperation pacts in the past in preparation for the launch of its nuclear power programme.

Fuel use in power plants*
Percentage of 541,472 billion BTUs
Heavy oil313,184
Crude oil54,068
Gas oil36,060
Source: Electricity & Water Ministry

KNNEC signed a five-year memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the development of Kuwait’s nuclear power programme with Japan’s Economy, Trade & Industry Ministry in September (MEED 12:9:10).

The pact covers the preparation, planning and promotion of nuclear power development and ensuring that nuclear non-proliferation standards are met. Kuwait has also signed cooperation agreements with the US in June and France in January.

Like many countries in the Middle East, Kuwait is assessing the potential for alternative sources of power. Although Kuwait has the fourth-largest oil reserves in the world, it does not have a lot of gas. The result is that the local power and desalination sector remains heavily reliant on liquid fuel rather than gas for feedstock.

At present, about 58 per cent of Kuwait’s power generation is fuelled by heavy oil, while gas oil and crude oil account for about 7 and 10 per cent respectively. Gas-fired capacity is only 25 per cent of the power generation mix.

The environmental implications of generating electricity from oil and projected increases in power demand as a result of rising population figures has encouraged the government to consider alternative options. Kuwait’s population is currently expanding at an annual rate of about 3.5 per cent.

Using oil reserves for domestic electricity demand is also viewed as a poor use of the resource. Oil not used for power generation can be sold on the international hydrocarbon markets, with profits allocated for social and infrastructure spending plans. 

Nuclear race

Documents released by whistleblower website Wikileaks confirms MEED reports that Bahrain is studying options for nuclear power (MEED 9:04:10).

In a document from November 2009, it was reported that Bahrain’s King Hamad had asked the minsters of foreign affairs, the interior and public works to present him recommendations on developing nuclear power.

Sources in Manama say Bahrain is wary of being left behind in a race to develop nuclear power in the region, sparked by the start of operations at Iran’s Bushehr plant and the UAE awarding a contact to develop four reactors in late 2009.

The Wikileaks documents also report the UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan as saying that, “if Iran goes nuclear others in the region will move forward on the same track”.

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