Choosing between nuke chimney and solar cell
Interestingly, many people believe that those huge chimneys house the nuclear plant and everything that is associated with it. To be honest, they looked beautiful with green tall trees and beautiful rivers in their surroundings. At that time I had never thought of seeing those round chimneys in Saudi desert. In other words, why should we have nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia? We have the second largest oil reserves in the world and in the 1970s Saudi Arabia only consumed a small fraction of what it produced. At that time we did not have the huge petrochemical plants in Jubail and Yanbu, we did not have humongous electricity generators scattered along the Saudi coasts. During the 1970s, we did not have the largest water desalination plants in the world and the Saudis at that time did not have the highest number of air conditioning units in the world.
Nuclear energy is clean and safe. People around the world had been fascinated with nuclear physics and nuclear energy and this interest hiked to unprecedented levels on March 28, 1979. It was the day when the Three Mile Island nuclear plant unit 2 in Pennsylvania had a partial meltdown. After the incident many government agencies and environmental activists around the world started to wonder if this cheap, clean and safe energy really worth the risks associated with it. So, what is the alternative for non-oil producing countries? The answer came in the form of more research in the clean, safe and abundant sunlight.
Despite all that, Saudi Arabia was in no rush to either think about nuclear plants or using solar energy. However, with the increase in the consumption of oil — 2 million barrels per day — things started to change. The Saudis are the biggest consumers of energy assets in the world and yes, we have plenty of oil and gas but the energy resources in the Kingdom will deplete over time. So, do we need another source of energy? The answer is yes. We need renewable and clean energy. And the other strategic question is what will be the future common sight along the Saudi desert horizon? Is it going to be the big and tall nuclear reactors chimney or is it going to be those shiny solar cells?
Nuclear energy plants need long years of expertise in the field. We need Saudi national work force because nuclear energy is not something you would rely on foreign expertise forever. Saudi Arabia is new to nuclear science and these plants need huge amounts of water resources. So, these nuclear plants must be built on the Saudi coastlines because we don’t have inland waterways. And at this time we already have many plants of all sorts along the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf.
What about solar energy? About three years ago, Arab News had published my article “Saudi Arabia and the Invisible Sun Rays.” Nowadays, solar energy technology had come a long way since the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. It is cheaper, more reliable and easier to maintain through solar cells. We have sunshine most of the years and most importantly solar energy is less complicated, easier to maintain and safer than any other form of energy-producing method. Saudi Arabia is a huge country with many little towns scattered all over. And the Saudi government is keen on serving all Saudi citizens regardless of their whereabouts. So, it would be useful to build solar energy cells across the Kingdom to produce electricity. Initially, we can use it for streetlights and later on can expand to include lighting homes and all government buildings through solar energy. Saudi Arabia must act fast to have a renewable and safe source of energy. This way we can save more oil for future generations.
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