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

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

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.”


London police officer under investigation for shouting ‘free Palestine’ at rally

London police officer under investigation for shouting ‘free Palestine’ at rally
Updated 1 min 16 sec ago

London police officer under investigation for shouting ‘free Palestine’ at rally

London police officer under investigation for shouting ‘free Palestine’ at rally
  • She was filmed accepting a white rose and hugging a protester amid a cheering crowd
  • It came as major cities across the UK have seen massive protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people

LONDON: London’s Metropolitan Police is investigating an on-duty officer who shouted “free Palestine” at a march condemning Israel’s bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip.

The uniformed female officer was captured on video at the demonstration in the capital. In the footage, she is seen accepting a white rose and hugging a protester.

She was heard shouting “free, free Palestine” to a cheering audience. The footage went viral on several social media sites.

It came as major cities across the UK have seen massive protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people.


Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests

Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests
Updated 44 min 57 sec ago

Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests

Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests
  • Kurdish administration that oversees large swathes of Syria's northeast said Monday it was doubling and tripling the cost of fuel
  • Clashes broke out when protesters and gunmen stormed a base in Shadadi belonging to Kurdish security forces

QAMISHLI: A decision to hike fuel prices sparked protests across Kurdish-held parts of northeastern Syria on Tuesday that turned violent and left at least one demonstrator dead, a monitor said.
The Kurdish administration, which oversees large swathes of Syria’s northeast, said on Monday that it was doubling and in some cases tripling the cost of fuel.
On Tuesday, dozens of people took to the streets in the city of Qamishli and other areas calling on the authorities to reverse the price hike, AFP correspondents reported.
Clashes broke out when protesters and gunmen stormed a base in the town of Shadadi belonging to Kurdish security forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
One protester was killed and five others were wounded in the exchange of fire, said the Britain-based monitor.
The price hike saw the cost of diesel climb to 400 Syrian pounds (30 US cents at the official exchange rate) per liter from 150 and petrol to 410 pounds per liter from 210.
Cannisters of gas used in homes are now selling for 8,000 pounds, up from 2,500.
The price hikes come on top of an accelerating economic crisis that has weakened the value of the pound and plunged wide segments of Syria’s population into poverty.
“The Kurdish administration was forced to raise prices because the previous ones didn’t cover the cost of production,” said Sadiq Al-Khalaf, a Kurdish administration official.
Kurds control some of Syria’s largest gas and oil fields but authorities are not producing enough oil and gas to meet the demand.
Heating fuel, petrol and cooking gas have been in short supply in recent months and motorists have grown used to waiting in long queues to fill up.
Regional authorities have not explained the reason behind the shortage.
Amid protests, regime loyalists in the city of Hassakeh — parts of which are controlled by government forces — attacked a Kurdish security forces position, according to the Observatory.
Three people were injured, it said.
The Kurdish Asayish security forces released a statement condemning attempts to exploit peaceful demonstrations by “attacking military and civilian” infrastructure.
“It is creating a state of chaos,” the Asayish said.
Syria used to produce almost 400,000 barrels of oil per day before its civil war erupted.
But 10 years of conflict have ravaged production, with oil sector’s losses estimated at $91.5 billion.


‘Long Covid’ symptoms ease after vaccine: Survey

‘Long Covid’ symptoms ease after vaccine: Survey
Updated 18 May 2021

‘Long Covid’ symptoms ease after vaccine: Survey

‘Long Covid’ symptoms ease after vaccine: Survey
  • Study suggests mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna particularly beneficial
  • Analysis author: ‘Data very encouraging but we don’t know how long benefits last’

LONDON: COVID-19 vaccines tend to alleviate the symptoms of the medical phenomenon known as “long Covid,” according to a survey involving 800 people.

The study suggests that mRNA vaccines are particularly beneficial in battling long Covid symptoms.

The virus was initially understood to be a largely respiratory illness that most people would recover from within a month, but people started to report symptoms that continued for many months. 

Medical experts are still hunting for a consensus definition for the phenomenon, with people suffering from chronic fatigue to organ damage.

There are also mysteries surrounding appropriate and effective treatment plans that can be standardized across the population.

But anecdotal reports have so far suggested that vaccines can help some people who are still struggling with COVID-19 symptoms long after their original infection.

The analysis has yet to be peer reviewed, but the results of the survey by advocacy group LongCovidSOS could offer medical practitioners a pathway to restoring normalcy to many.

The survey consisted of 812 mostly white, female participants with long Covid in Britain and internationally, who were contacted via social media. 

The participants were asked to wait at least a week after their first dose of the jab to prevent their responses being affected by vaccine side effects.

Changes across 14 common long Covid symptoms were compared before and after the first inoculation. 

LongCovidSOS data found that 56.7 percent of respondents experienced an overall improvement in symptoms, with 24.6 percent reporting no changes and 18.7 percent finding that their symptoms worsened after the jab.

In general, participants who received mRNA vaccines (such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna jabs) reported more improvements in symptoms than those who got an adenovirus vaccine (Oxford-AstraZeneca). 

The Moderna vaccine was found to have the most promising results, with participants seeing the greatest improvements in symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog and muscle pain.

The analysis found that Moderna recipients were also less likely to endure a deterioration in their ailments.

“This survey will reassure people that they would have to be quite unlucky to really have an overall worsening of symptoms,” said LongCovidSOS analysis author Ondine Sherwood. “The data is very encouraging, but we don’t know how long the benefits last.”

Dr. David Strain, an analysis author and senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, said: “There isn’t a blood pressure tablet that fixes everybody … and similarly, there’s not one long Covid treatment that’s going to fix everyone — but the fact that one treatment does fix something means that there’s bound to be other treatments out there that will fix others.”

As the assessment was via survey, there can be no definitive proof to show that the vaccine caused the improvement in symptoms.

After suffering from long Covid symptoms for so long, the improvement could have come from natural regeneration. 

However, Strain said of the 130 people in the survey who received both vaccine doses, some improved after their first jab — before finding their situation worsening again — and then improved further after their second inoculation.

But Nisreen Alwan, an associate professor in public health at the University of Southampton, warned that as the improvement in symptoms had abated in about half the participants by the time they completed the survey, the analysis could show that the vaccine-inspired improvement was fleeting.

Mystery remains about the cause of long Covid, with some experts theorizing that it could involve the persistence of the virus remaining within the body — such as fragments of the virus lingering after infection — and the immune system overreacting to the remaining virus and damaging healthy tissues.

Strain said the LongCovidSOS analysis suggested that COVID-19 vaccines help to reset the immune system, telling it to target the virus and spare itself.

But he cautioned that this explanation is speculation and will need further investigation to be supported.

Prof. Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said: “How could a vaccine make a subset of long-term sufferers feel better? It’s tempting to hypothesise that this was the subset who had symptoms due to a reservoir of virus that was never properly cleared, and the enormous boost of a potent vaccine equipped them with the immune response to do this. This needs mechanistic investigation of the actual immune responses.”


Over 96% of people build antibodies after single COVID-19 jab: Study

Over 96% of people build antibodies after single COVID-19 jab: Study
Updated 18 May 2021

Over 96% of people build antibodies after single COVID-19 jab: Study

Over 96% of people build antibodies after single COVID-19 jab: Study
  • Lead author: ‘It’s a real feat of science in the face of the most devastating pandemic in a century’
  • ‘How well these vaccines work is remarkable, especially given the speed at which they’ve been developed’

LONDON: More than 96 percent of people develop coronavirus antibodies after receiving only a single dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, new research has revealed. 

The England- and Wales-based study, which monitored more than 8,000 participants, also discovered that almost 100 percent of people develop immune cells to successfully fight off coronavirus after two vaccine doses.

Researchers found that 96.42 percent of people who received the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine developed antibodies 28-34 days after a first dose. 

The figure grew to 99.08 percent within seven to 14 days of receiving a second jab, The Guardian newspaper reported.

“This is one of the earliest real-world vaccine studies in the UK and it is fantastic news,” said Dr. Maddie Shrotri, lead author of the research paper.

“More than nine out of 10 adults in the UK who had either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine produced antibodies against the virus within a month of their first shot,” she added.

“How well these vaccines work is remarkable, especially given the speed at which they’ve been developed. It’s a real feat of science in the face of the most devastating pandemic in a century.”

The study, conducted by University College London (UCL) scientists, could have positive implications on the worldwide fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It will be placed through a peer review process before submission to a medical journal.

UCL scientists found that both vaccines were equally capable of triggering the antibody response that can ward off severe coronavirus infections.

However, antibody levels after a single jab were discovered to be lower in older people and those with underlying health conditions, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. That discrepancy was later resolved after participants received a second vaccine dose.

The study is a “timely reminder” about the importance of receiving a second dose, said Prof. Rob Aldridge, chief investigator of the UCL study. “But it is also reassuring — vaccines are our way out of the pandemic.”


EU mulls ways to help defuse Israel-Palestinian fighting

EU mulls ways to help defuse Israel-Palestinian fighting
Updated 18 May 2021

EU mulls ways to help defuse Israel-Palestinian fighting

EU mulls ways to help defuse Israel-Palestinian fighting
  • EU has been united in its calls for a cease-fire and the need for a political solution to end the latest conflict
  • The biggest donor of aid to the Palestinians, the EU holds little influence over the militant group Hamas or Israel

BRUSSELS: European Union foreign ministers debated Tuesday how to use the 27-nation bloc’s political clout to help diplomatic efforts to end the fighting between the Israeli armed forces and Palestinian militants.
The EU has been united in its calls for a cease-fire and the need for a political solution to end the latest conflict — now in its second week — but the nations are divided over how best to help.
No firm decisions involving threats of sanctions or other measures are likely from the ministers’ videoconference.
At least 212 Palestinians have been killed in heavy airstrikes so far, including 61 children, and over 1,400 people wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. At least 12 people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.
Israel carried out a wave of airstrikes on what it said were militant targets in Gaza, leveling a six-story building in downtown Gaza City, and Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel early Tuesday, the latest in the fourth war between the two sides.
The EU is the biggest donor of aid to the Palestinians but holds little influence over the militant group Hamas or the state of Israel, despite having some trade arrangements that are favorable to the Israelis.
Before the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that he had an exchange with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on how the United States and the bloc “can jointly contribute to end violence” and to reduce tensions.
“Looking beyond, we also need longer term initiatives to break the dynamics of conflict and revive the prospect of a peaceful future for all,” wrote Borrell, who is chairing the meeting.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed that “Israel of course has the right to defend itself” against rocket fire from Hamas.
“With its rocket terror, Hamas has deliberately escalated a situation that was already extremely tense, with terrible consequences for Israelis and for its own civilian population in Gaza,” he said.
“The weapons must finally fall silent,” Maas said. He emphasized the role of the international diplomatic Quartet, in which the EU is represented by its new Middle East peace envoy Sven Koopmans, and said “we are in favor of further expanding his mediation efforts.”
The Quartet’s other three members are the United Nations, the US and Russia.
Maas said the EU needs to look beyond ending the current violence and at how to prevent a repeat. “The EU must play a role here, in political and humanitarian terms,” he said, adding that he would press Tuesday for better humanitarian supply lines into Gaza.
“We must use our relationships with both sides to encourage confidence-building steps that could lead to calming the situation both inside Israel and in the West Bank,” he added. “Only that way will it be possible to talk again about a lasting solution to the Middle East conflict.”