There are strong arguments in favour of nuclear energy. As fossil fuel supplies dwindle, the region will have to develop alternative methods of generating electricity.
For now, renewable energy sources are not a viable option to completely replace fossil fuels.
There are also economic arguments for going nuclear. Despite abundant oil and gas reserves, demand for energy is outstripping supply. Gas shortages have already driven some Gulf states to return to liquid fuel for new power plants, which is a costly exercise. Nuclear power could provide a cheaper solution.
In addition, soaring energy market prices mean it is more attractive for countries to sell gas to inter-national customers than to hand it to local utility firms at subsidised prices.
Of course, there are clear disadvantages too. A nuclear power plant does not emit any carbon dioxide once working, but the spent fuel is a dangerous, long-term problem, and the cost of dealing with it is unclear. In addition, there is always the threat of a Chernobyl-style disaster or terrorist attack.
It was the 1970s oil crisis that prompted France to accelerate its nuclear programme to the point that it now supplies 78 per cent of its electricity.
Today, France is the leading supplier of nuclear technology to the Gulf.
Its motives are clear. Securing major contracts in the region will bring in significant revenues and help maintain its expertise.
But while the economic case for developing nuclear energy is persuasive at today’s oil and gas prices, there is no guarantee they will remain at those levels.
A MEED Subscription...
Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.