Saudi considers building first nuclear power plant

Posted in Broader Middle East | 24-Aug-09 | Source: The Peninsula

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is looking at building its first nuclear power plant, an official told an Arabic-language daily on Wednesday. Minister of Water and Electricity, Abdullah bin Abdul-Rahman Al Husayen, told the Al Watan newspaper: "The kingdom is working on building a pilot plant fuelled by nuclear energy" to generate electricity.

In May French's Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said Saudi Arabia and France were close to finalising a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement. Power demand in the kingdom has surged due to rapid economic growth, and lack of infrastructure to meet its domestic requirements.

Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, already faces costly power outages of up to five hours a day in the industrial zone of the commercial hub of Jeddah. Last month, Gulf countries took a step towards easing regional power shortages by linking up their electricity grids.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain signed a power trading agreement in July which could start seeing power flow across borders soon. Civilian nuclear power programmes are also being explored by a number of Gulf oil exporting countries.