How Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power will play a role against climate change

Updated 30 January 2019

How Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power will play a role against climate change

  • With Saudi Arabia planning to develop reactors, experts are talking about the environmental benefits

As nuclear power is increasingly being seen as a key element in tackling climate change, Saudi Arabia is moving toward adopting the renewable energy source.

According to a report last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a large increase in nuclear power could help keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees Centigrade, a target set as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

But to achieve that target, experts say the world needs to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions almost immediately.

“The IPCC report made clear the necessity of nuclear energy as an important part of an effective global response,” Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, told Arab News. 

“Nuclear power is the only form of electricity generation that can deliver constantly, reliably, 24/7 without the production of greenhouse gas emissions. A nuclear power plant also takes up a much smaller area, in contrast to many renewables such as wind or solar.”

Dr. Peter Bode, former associate professor of nuclear science and technology at the Delft University in the Netherlands, said: “The need for electricity will increase by the conversion to electric cars for the next decade, and hydrogen-driven cars beyond 2030. Hydrogen gas is generated from water but also needs electricity, while a single nuclear power station produces energy equivalent to hundreds of wind turbines.”

Nuclear power is seen as especially well-suited to and beneficial in the Middle East, where energy demand is growing rapidly. 

“It’s difficult to see alternatives in the Middle East for electricity needs without nuclear power as a major component in the energy mix,” Bode said. “In addition, nuclear power plants generate jobs.”

Across the region, countries are opting for the nuclear route. Construction of the Barakah nuclear power plant in the UAE is nearing completion, and all four reactors are expected to generate in the next few years. 

Saudi Arabia has outlined ambitious plans for the development of nuclear generation, including next-generation reactors. 

“Nuclear power is well-suited to meeting future energy needs in the Middle East. Energy demand in the region has risen rapidly in recent decades and is expected to continue to grow, with the development of large urban areas with high populations,” Rising said.




Sources: International Atomic Energy Agency, International Energy Agency

“The ability to generate more than 1 gigawatt of electricity from a compact plant makes nuclear generation well-suited to meet this demand.” 

 Last July, Saudi Arabia invited the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct its Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review. 

A team assessed the status of the Kingdom’s nuclear power infrastructure development, while providing detailed guidance. 

Last week, the review was handed to Dr. Khalid Al-Sultan, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in Riyadh. It will be made public in 90 days.

“Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in the development of its nuclear power infrastructure,” said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA deputy director general and head of the department of nuclear energy. 

“It has established a legislative framework and carried out comprehensive studies to support the next steps of the program.” 

The Kingdom has developed a national action plan, and earlier this month it had its first meeting to discuss the plan with the IAEA. 

“This is indicative of the commitment of Saudi Arabia to make progress and to move the program forward,” Chudakov said. 

“While the IAEA can provide support, the responsibility for closing any gaps and moving the program forward lies with the (Kingdom).”

Nuclear plants can also be used for desalination — on which the region relies heavily — and supplying industrial heat. 

“Developing nuclear energy technologies will bring a lot of benefits to the Middle East,” Rising said. 

“But countries should ensure that there’s a level playing field in their energy markets,” in which “nuclear energy is treated equally with other low-carbon technologies and recognized for its value in a reliable, resilient, low-carbon energy mix.”

She said countries should also ensure that there is an effective safety paradigm that focuses on genuine public wellbeing, and where the health, environmental and safety benefits of nuclear power are better understood and valued compared with other energy sources.

Dr. John Bernhard, former Danish ambassador to the IAEA, said: “Though renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal are becoming increasingly important, it’s clear that in the foreseeable future they’re far from able to meet the increasing global clean energy demands, especially in countries with fast-growing industrial development. So it’s essential to maintain, or when possible increase, the role of nuclear power as part of the energy mix.”

Public acceptance will prove crucial in that transition. Dr. Kenji Yamaji, director general of the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth in Tokyo and a nuclear physicist, said: “Potential contributions to climate-change mitigation by nuclear power would be huge if the nuclear option is considered by the public as a socially acceptable energy choice.”

He added: “There remains strong public concern over nuclear safety in Japan after the Fukushima accident. But the Middle East is an attractive new nuclear market, and strong government support will be key.”


Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

Updated 8 min 34 sec ago

Leading Hong Kong activists charged for Tiananmen vigil gathering

  • Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown
  • China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage

HONG KONG: Thirteen prominent Hong Kong democracy activists appeared in court on Monday charged with holding an unauthorized gathering to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the latest in a string of prosecutions against protest leaders in the restless financial hub.
Last month tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies to mark the June 4 anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown against students pushing for democracy.
The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds. It has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
This year’s vigil was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures. At the time local transmission had largely been halted.
But thousands turned out to hold candles in their neighborhoods and in Victoria Park, the traditional site of the vigil.
Police later arrested 13 leading activists who appeared at the Victoria Park vigil.
All appeared in court on Monday to be formally charged with “inciting” an unlawful assembly, which carries up to five years in jail.
Among them are Jimmy Lai, the millionaire owner of the openly pro-democracy Apple newspaper, veteran democracy activists such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho as well as young campaigner Figo Chan.
When asked if he understood the charge, Lee invoked the hundreds who were killed by Chinese tanks and soldiers at Tiananmen.
“This is political persecution,” he said. “The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago.”
Some of those charged on Monday — and many other leading democracy figures — face separate prosecutions related to last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.
China’s leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilize the motherland.
Earlier this month Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the protests once and for all.
The law targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.
But its broad phrasing — such as a ban on encouraging hatred toward China’s government — has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.
Police have arrested people for possessing pro-independence or autonomy material, libraries and schools have pulled books, political parties have disbanded and one prominent opposition politician has fled.
The law bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and its contents were kept secret until the moment it was enacted.
It empowered China’s security apparatus to set up shop openly in Hong Kong for the first time, while Beijing has also claimed jurisdiction for some serious national security cases — ending the legal firewall between the mainland the city’s independent judiciary.
China has also announced global jurisdiction to pursue national security crimes committed by anyone outside of Hong Kong and China, including foreigners.