Kuwait’s selection of Bubiyan or Failaka islands as potential sites for its planned nuclear scheme could have negative impacts on the country’s environment and tourism sector.

MEED reported in early February that Bubiyan Island and Failaka Island were two of the three sites under consideration for the country’s first nuclear power plant. Since then local consultants and planners have raised concerns over the environmental impact on the islands.

“I find it quite incredible that they could consider building a nuclear plant on these locations. Both are currently in the process of having nature and tourist projects planned,” said one local consultant.

In 2003, the Kuwait government appointed a team of the US’ HOK Architects, the local Gulf Consult and the UK’s Mouchel develop an environmentally driven masterplan for Bubiyan island. Subsequent environmental impact studies found that the island had significant terrestrial and marine biodiversity. A nature preserve is one of the key elements of the island’s masterplan.

Kuwait’s Public Works Ministry is planning to transform the 43-square-kilometre Failaka island, which lies 20 kilometres east of Kuwait City, into a major tourism and leisure resort. This involves the construction of infrastructure, a waterfront development with chalets, hotels, a new marina and a jetty.

The proposed locations for the nuclear power plant were identified following an evaluation of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and recommendations from the Kuwait National Nuclear Energy Committee (KNNEC) technical consultants. The criteria considered included cooling water availability, plate boundaries and faults, seismicity, foundation conditions and proximity to population areas.

“I can see why they are considering these sites, as they are near to water sources and away from heavily populated areas,” said an advisor involved with nuclear power programmes.

Kuwait is pursuing nuclear power because it is struggling to meet domestic demand. Demand projections suggest that installed capacity will need to grow from 11 gigawatts (GW) to 28GW by 2030 (MEED 11:2:11).