Tag Archive | "nuclear"

$200bn to be pumped in MENA power sector by 2020

Consumption of electricity in the MENA region is said to grow at a faster pace over the next decade, with investments worth more than $200 billion set to be pumped into the region’s power sector by 2020, according to a report.

The MENA Power 2013 report published by MEED Insight earlier this year, said that demand for electricity has grown so rapidly in the region, that in many instances utilities have struggled to keep up, resulting in investments worth billions of dollars in new power plants.

The report added that more than $100bn of investment is required by 2020 to meet the additional capacity with the same amount to be invested in the transmission and distribution sectors – representing a lucrative growth opportunity for anyone working in the power market.

This will come as good news to more than 1,200 exhibitors from 100 countries around the world that will participate in the 39th edition of Middle East Electricity, one of the world’s largest energy events focussing on the power, lighting, renewable and nuclear sectors.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai , Middle East Electricity will take place from 11-13 February 2014 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.


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Nuclear desalination ideal for UAE

Nuclear desalination has been identified as the best step forward for the UAE, according to Dr Youssef Shatilla, Dean of Academic Programs, and Professor – Mechanical Engineering, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

The UAE’s water and energy security will receive a major boost if the desalination plants can be linked to nuclear power. Nuclear desalination is a well-known technology and the number of plants currently operating across the world strongly indicates the advantage, says Dr Shatilla.

The remarks followed the announcement by the editorial board of the prestigious international journal Desalination, naming Dr Shatilla and Dr Ibrahim Khamis, Nuclear Power Technology Development Section, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as co-Guest Editors for a special issue dedicated to ‘Nuclear Desalination’. Dr. Nidal Hilal, Editor-in-Chief of Desalination, has announced that both luminaries have accepted the offer for the special edition that will be published in March 2014. This special issue will be open by the journal on 1 November 2012.

Dr. Shatilla said: “Since the creation of modern UAE, most of the water needs have been met through seawater desalination. The UAE is no stranger to the world of desalination as some of the largest desalination plants in the world are right here in our own backyard. Nuclear desalination is basically the same as conventional desalination, except for the source of energy, which comes from a nuclear power plant. Nuclear desalination plants have been deployed in various parts of the world ranging from developed to developing countries with commanding success. This gives confidence that such an undertaking, if implemented, will definitely be a huge addition to UAE’s water and energy security.”

Dr Hilal, who is also Professor in Nano-membranology and Water Technologies at Masdar Institute, said: “Energy plays important role in both thermal and RO desalination technologies and looking into the future for providing alternative energies to provide sustainable clean water to places where it is needed. Therefore Desalination journal will publish a special issue on nuclear desalination in 2014 and has chosen Dr. Khamis from the Department of Nuclear Energy at the IAEA and Dr Shatilla from Masdar Institute, who has a doctorate of Science in Nuclear Engineering from MIT and well known in this field.

“The editorial board of Desalination is always looking into disseminating state-of-the-art research findings in very important water and desalination technologies to scientists and engineers around the world. The journal has recently completed a number of special issues, to be published early 2013, including, New Directions in Desalination, Membrane Distillation, Forward Osmosis, Radioactive Decontamination, Boron Removal and Nano-filtration.”

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Greenpod 26 August 2012: BGreen podcast

AED11 bn contract for UAE nuclear power; Abu Dhabi defends mangroves against construction; world’s “coolest” hybrid makes Asian debut in Dubai.

Listen to today’s GreenPod 26 August 2012 for more


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Nuclear Power – Where do we stand?

In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, populations across the world expressed their concern with the safety of nuclear power plants. Questions were raised both in countries with an established civilian nuclear programme and in neighbouring countries (worried by the impacts of nuclear fallout following a potential accident).
The debate is ongoing in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region where a number of countries have been exploring the nuclear power option (some such as Egypt for decades now). The lack of technical capabilities, fears of nuclear proliferation and the lack of sufficient financial resources put a lid on the ambitions of many of the governments in the region. However, the recent move by the UAE to develop a civilian nuclear programme has revived interests.

Nuclear power: cheap and green
Proponents of nuclear power argue that it offers a scalable and affordable solution to reduce the carbon footprint of electricity generation. In 2009, France’s power sector (which produces roughly 80% of its electricity from nuclear power plants) had a carbon intensity (emissions per unit of electricity produced) of around 80 kg CO2/MWh, one of the lowest in the world. France’s carbon intensity compares to approximately 400 kg CO2/MWh for California ( where 11% of electricity was produced from non-hydro renewables and 46% from natural gas) and an outstanding 790 kg CO2/MWh for Kuwait where 70% of electricity was derived from burning oil and refined products. French government officials also regularly emphasise lower electricity tariffs in their country compared
to their European neighbours.
For MENA countries, other arguments further support the case for nuclear power:
- resource-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia could build reactors to free up natural resources for exports and generate additional revenues
- resource-poor countries such as Jordan could develop nuclear power to reduce their dependence on fossil fuel imports as they strive to meet growing demand of electricity

UAE leads the way, Saudi Arabia and Jordan seriously considering to follow
In 2009, the UAE became the first country of the region to embark on the development of a large scale civilian nuclear power programme as it awarded a US$20 billion contract to a South Korean consortium to build four reactors with a total capacity of 5.6 GWe, with one 1.4 GWe power plant coming online every year starting in 2017.
Both Saudi Arabia and Jordan now stand as the most serious countries considering the development of nuclear power assets. In Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) was set up by a 2010 royal decree and entrusted with the development of the kingdom’s long-term power mix. Nuclear power is currently being considered, and could play major role in the power mix of the country. Plans were announced to build 16 reactors or 22 GWe of power—about half of Saudi Arabia’s current electricity production capacity. Saudi Arabia is faced with a strong growth of electricity demand; and insufficient gas volumes have recently forced utilities to increasingly rely on crude oil to fuel their turbines. The country now generates about half of its electricity using from oil according to officials. Officials announced that the country burned an average of 730,000 barrels a day of crude in its power plants from July to the end of September 2011. Between 2004 and 2010, the consumption of crude oil in power plants rose by an estimated 260 percent.
The debate around nuclear power recently accelerated in Jordan as disruptions of gas supply from Egypt exposed the country’s reliance on imports of hydrocarbons. In its approach to secure energy supply, the government considered LNG terminals as well as nuclear power. Jordan’s Atomic Energy Commission replaced the Nuclear Energy Commission in 2008 and is in charge of executing the country’s nuclear power plans. The government is currently considering bids for the Engineering Procurement and Construction of its first nuclear reactors and has entered in talks with different potential suppliers, indicating its desire to push forward its programme.
Other countries in the region have formed institutions to oversee the potential development of a civilian nuclear programme, yet are not as advanced in the implementation process. Egypt established a set of organisations starting in the 1950s to oversee the use of nuclear fuel for power generation; several plans were commissioned to develop a nuclear fleet but none materialised. Every year, Tunisian engineers are trained on nuclear power in French institutions. Algeria operates two research reactors and has regularly discussed options to diversify its fuel mix including nuclear power.

Opposition and concerns
Governments’ enthusiasm for nuclear power, however, is not always matched with support from citizens. Kuwait recently dropped plans to develop nuclear power and disbanded its National Nuclear Energy Committee. The Kuwaiti government had faced strong opposition from civil society when it was considering the prospects of a civilian nuclear programme. Not surprisingly, concerns were mainly about potential dangers of an accident in power plants. The Iranian plant of Bushehr (built on the other side of the Gulf) regularly surfaced in news articles reflecting fears of nuclear fallout from an accident at that plant.
In Jordan, opposition to government plans recently rose as the country got closer to commissioning nuclear reactors. Opponents to nuclear power often put forth the renewables alternative. Renewables, they argue, would ensure higher levels of energy security by removing the need to import the resource, provide clean electricity, and most importantly entail no risks to humans or to the environment.
The final disposal of radioactive material is also central to the debate. Spent nuclear fuel, which is regularly removed from the heart of reactors and replaced with new rods, is first cooled down in pools usually part of on-site facilities. Long-lived radioactive material must be stored for thousands of years before it reaches natural background levels of radioactivity. Although other options that could accelerate the decay of radioactive material are being researched, storage remains the main solution currently considered to deal with existing stocks of spent fuel in Western countries with an existing civilian nuclear programme. The responsibility for the final disposal of spent fuel typically lies within the hands of the country that produced the waste. It requires long-term planning to ensure sufficient financing is available decades after the fuel rods are removed from reactors; underground storage options have also been subject to contentious relations between central governments and local communities.

Lessons from Fukushima
The development of civilian nuclear programmes in industrialised countries took decades to mature, and was supported by strong national scientific institutions. Current activities of nuclear power plants are governed by tight laws and standards enforced by empowered and independent regulators. Handling nuclear material requires high levels of safety and accurate accounting to ensure every single gram of fuel is tracked and kept in the right hands.
The approach in Arab countries tends to be mostly geared to the acceleration of development plans and rapid execution. In many countries, it clearly relies on third parties for the implementation of programmes, with a parallel track for the development of national capabilities.
The Fukushima accident provides one key learning to governments across the MENA that are contemplating plans of nuclear power: developing a civilian nuclear programme entails high requirements. Countries need institutions capable of maintaining adequate levels of safety from the licensing of nuclear plants, to their decommissioning, and all the way to the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards suggest 10 to 15 years between the moment a government decides to launch a nuclear power plant and the day the first nuclear plant is connected to the grid. Implementing these setups does require time, and maturity.

Guy El Khoury is a management consultant based in Beirut with a focus on energy practice in the Middle East region. Guy received an engineering diploma from Ecole Centrale Paris and a master’s degree from Stanford University. In his graduate studies he focused on energy policy and the electricity sector with emphasis on renewables and nuclear energy. His current work covers several aspects of the energy sector including fossil fuels, utilities and energy-intensive industries. Contact him at guy@carboun.com.

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