Advanced nuclear reactors hold promise of clean energy for Gulf countries

 Advanced nuclear reactors hold promise of clean energy for Gulf countries
Advanced reactors will likely be ready for deployment within one to two decades, setting the stage for major technological competition among powerful geopolitical rivals. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 July 2019

Advanced nuclear reactors hold promise of clean energy for Gulf countries

 Advanced nuclear reactors hold promise of clean energy for Gulf countries
  • The case for investing in advanced nuclear reactors as an alternative energy source is compelling
  • Russia and China have an advantage in the development of advanced reactors thanks to state financial backing

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia will be one of a handful of countries expected to receive state-of-the-art advanced nuclear reactors from China and Russia, according to a new report.

The report, “Advancing Nuclear  Innovation: Responding to Climate Change and Strengthening Global Security,” was commissioned by the Global Nexus Initiative. This is a project established by the Partnership for Global Security, a Washington DC-based think tank, and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which represents the US nuclear energy industry. It is a publicly available assessment of the non-proliferation, security, and geopolitical characteristics of advanced nuclear-reactor technology.

The report, which took 16 experts over a year to produce, says that advanced reactors will likely be ready for deployment within one to two decades, setting the stage for major technological competition among powerful geopolitical rivals.

Although complicated by politics, the economic case for countries to invest in civil nuclear reactors as part of a mix of alternative energy sources is compelling. The Global Nexus Initiative report says the international community should strive to make sure that any race for market share among geopolitical competitors strengthens nuclear governance rather than weakens it.

“In order to meet the energy and climate challenges which the world faces, advanced reactors should be ready for deployment in the 2025 to 2030 framework,” said John Bernhard, a senior associate at the Partnership for Global Security who earlier served as Denmark’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“These reactors will generally have various advantages — they are smaller and more flexible than traditional reactors, which means inter alia that in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, they can be deployed in remote and arid areas.”

IN NUMBERS

40% - Percentage of Saudi Arabia’s electricity produced by burning oil in 2016

9% - Percentage of electricity used by Kingdom for desalination of sea water

27.3 - Saudi Arabia’s combined target in gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2024

40% - Percentage rise expected in Saudi electricity demand between 2019 and 2030

2x - Fuel burned by Saudi Electricity Company during summer months as during the rest of the year

Saudi Arabia’s growing electricity needs are currently met almost entirely by oil and natural gas. In 2016, for example, 40 percent of its electricity came from oil. The result is a loss of potential export revenue. What is more, Saudi Arabia expects a 40 percent jump in electricity demand between 2019 and 2030, according to Khalid Al-Falih, the energy minister.

Electricity use will rise in the Kingdom due to the ongoing growth of urban areas and plans to develop a strong manufacturing sector. At the same time, according to the Electricity and Cogeneration Regulatory Authority (ECRA), nine percent of the electricity is used for desalination, on which Gulf countries are heavily dependent in the absence of fresh-water sources.

Compared with traditional nuclear reactors, the advanced ones can offer reduced construction time and costs, and a wider variety of sizes and outputs for different locations and applications.

“Besides emission-free electricity generation, they may help in desalination of sea water, which could provide a new source of fresh water to areas in need,” Bernhard said.

“A general benefit of nuclear energy is its potential role in producing carbon-dioxide emission-free electricity for a number of purposes. For the foreseeable future, renewable energy sources like wind and sun will probably not be able to deliver the output needed, such as in industrial development.”

Nuclear-energy experts say advanced reactors offer interesting new possibilities, especially for nuclear newcomers such as Saudi Arabia.

“From a climate-change standpoint, this may be a valuable contribution to the achievement of the Paris Agreement goals from some of the biggest oil-producing countries,” Bernhard said. “I would expect that for various reasons, several Gulf states will be interested in including nuclear energy, partly from advanced reactors.”




The economic case for countries to invest in civil nuclear reactors as part of a mix of alternative energy sources is compelling. (Shutterstock)

A case in point is Saudi Arabia. Among the many goals of its Vision 2030 is a reduction in dependency on oil revenues. To this end, the government has set ambitious goals for renewables, such as 27.3 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2024.

According to Lady Barbara Judge, former head of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, advanced nuclear reactors are modern, safer, smaller, more convenient and compact. So, “if a country like Saudi Arabia is starting a nuclear program, it might as well start with the best new technology on the market because that’s a great advantage,” she told Arab News. “Saudi Arabia starts with a clean slate and it’s a very fortunate position to be in.”

With their nuclear-export strategy linked to their geopolitical ambitions, Russia and China have an advantage in the development of advanced reactors thanks to state financial backing.

Bernhard said: “Several countries with a nuclear energy tradition and industry are involved in the development of advanced reactors.

“At the moment, it seems that in particular Russia and China have positioned themselves strongly, because of years of experience in this field and state involvement in financing.

“There is a clear geopolitical angle to this. For instance, the sale and servicing of new facilities normally will promote and uphold strong political and economic relations between the providing and the receiving countries for a long period of time.”

The peaceful use of nuclear energy has been globally important for more than 60 years, resulting in 452 nuclear reactor units in 32 countries, most of them in Europe, North America, East Asia, and South Asia.

“Nuclear energy is clean and generates 24/7 so it’s a good companion to sun and wind. Renewables such as solar and wind are excellent sources of energy but dependent on weather conditions, which aren’t always stable,” said Lady Judge, who is also a member of the International Advisory Board for the development of nuclear energy in the UAE.

“So you need to have a stable force of clean energy which is available around the clock to back up any other system of power generation.”

Of course there is no glossing over the importance of the newcomers ensuring, in cooperation with the IAEA, that their nuclear facilities, whether advanced or traditional, live up to the highest standards and requirements with regard to security.

Nuclear technology can have dual use, peaceful or weaponized. An extensive and effective international safeguards regime, implemented by the IAEA, exists to contain the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons.

However, because of their unique features, advanced reactors do not easily fit into the existing national regulatory or international governance regimes, according to the Global Nexus Initiative’s report. In fact, they pose new challenges for the safeguards system.

As such, they will be subject to new security measures to help prevent a hostile outside attack, nuclear terrorism and insider sabotage. “These new technological challenges must be effectively addressed,” the authors of “Advancing Nuclear Innovation” say. “Several countries are focused on developing advanced reactors, including the US, Canada, South Korea, the UK, France, Russia and China. But the lack of a developed regulatory system and regulator experience is a challenge for all nations.”

As advanced nuclear reactors move through the design and development phase, it is also vital to have well-developed test beds to demonstrate the technology, the report says, adding that Russia and China have an advantage in this area.

According to Dr. Peter Bode, a former associate professor in nuclear science and technology at Delft University in the Netherlands, the use of nuclear-power plants in the future energy mix is beyond debate.

“Solar, wind and other renewables will not be sufficient,” he said. “But the future of nuclear in the region is positive, with plants in the UAE expected to be operational soon and used as an example that will quickly be followed by others.”

In a region where the future of oil and gas is unknown, nuclear power is expected to play a significant role. “It is a good companion, even currently, and certainly in the future,” Lady Judge said. 

“And that feeling of energy security and energy independence, which nuclear brings, is one which many countries in the Gulf would like to share.”

 

*An earlier version of this article had stated that Saudi Arabia had set a combined goal of 9.5 gigawatts of solar and wind power by 2023. The figure has since been revised by the Saudi government.


Panic in Lebanon as desert locust swarms hit farmland

Panic in Lebanon as desert locust swarms hit farmland
Updated 37 min 52 sec ago

Panic in Lebanon as desert locust swarms hit farmland

Panic in Lebanon as desert locust swarms hit farmland
  • Videos showing the insects flying over farmland in the towns of Ersal and Ras Baalbek in Bekaa circulated on social media, with the hashtag #locust trending in Lebanon
  • The Lebanese military said that helicopters had begun spraying pesticides over Baalbek and Ras Baalbek to “fight and eradicate” the desert locusts

BEIRUT: The arrival of locust swarms in Lebanon has caused panic among the country’s farmers.

Videos showing the insects flying over farmland in the towns of Ersal and Ras Baalbek in Bekaa circulated on social media, with the hashtag #locust trending in Lebanon on Friday as people made sarcastic comments about the latest crisis to hit the beleaguered country.

The Lebanese military said that helicopters had begun spraying pesticides over Baalbek and Ras Baalbek to “fight and eradicate” the desert locusts.

Ersal Mayor Bassel Al-Hujairi recounted seeing “millions” of locusts flying and attacking cherry trees and crops.

“Locusts have invaded one-third of Ersal,” he told Arab News. “As we rushed to find out the size of the disaster, locust swarms had already gone across the town, which means that in the early hours of Friday locusts were able to cross 15 km, heading from barren areas toward Ersal. If these swarms multiply, they can cover the sun.”

Ersal was home to more than two million cherry, apple and apricot trees that were located on the town’s southern and eastern sides, said the mayor, and locusts were still on the northern side of the town. 

“I hope wind will not take them to other directions,” he added.

The swarms arrived in Lebanon after invading Syria, Iraq and Jordan.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the appearance of desert locusts in Syria and Jordan was an “unusual and rare” event caused by several days of strong southerly winds and high temperatures that brought the adult groups to these areas.

It added that while the swarms did not represent a “large-scale invasion” and could be controlled, it feared that some of the mature adults may lay eggs and reproduce.

The ministries of agriculture and defense have mobilized to address the problem as Lebanon is a member of the FAO’s Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region.

Agriculture Minister Abbas Mortada inspected Ersal and said that ministry teams had witnessed “locust waves” and were able to define their approximate scope. 

“But we still have fears that these locusts may reproduce and invade fields and farms. People are filming the locust swarms, but they are still relatively far.”

Ras Baalbek Mayor Menhem Mhanna reported “huge numbers” of locusts over the town’s barren areas and expressed his fears about these swarms reaching inhabited areas.

“Locusts will not find anything in Lebanon since the politicians have devoured everything,” said one person on social media, while another said: “Lebanon’s politicians are more dangerous than these swarms.”

“Locusts are the cherry on the top to be added to Lebanon’s economic collapse, political gridlock and starvation,” read another comment.

The crisis has brought the Lebanese back to the beginning of the 20th century, when swarms stripped the country of almost all its vegetation.

At that time Lebanon was already grappling with economic hardship and a double blockade by both the Ottoman Empire and the Allied Forces, resulting in a famine that led to more than a third of the population dying.

In 2013, historians and researchers Dr. Christian Taoutel and Father Pierre Wittouck released a book compiling the previously unpublished French chronicles of Jesuit priests during the famine called “The Lebanese people in the turmoil of the Great War of 1914-1918.”

According to the book, “famine started with a hungry swarm of locusts that devoured everything, where the Lebanese called the year of 1915 ‘The Year of Locusts’ which were impossible to control.”


Cyprus to impose partial lockdown to stem virus surge

Cyprus to impose partial lockdown to stem virus surge
Updated 23 April 2021

Cyprus to impose partial lockdown to stem virus surge

Cyprus to impose partial lockdown to stem virus surge
  • Restrictions will be slightly eased for Orthodox Easter at the start of May
  • Measures would help Cyprus’s vaccination rollout play catch up and ease pressure on hospitals, said Health Minister

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Friday announced a two-week partial lockdown as hospitals struggle to cope with surging coronavirus cases, with restrictions covering the key Orthodox Easter holidays.
“The growing number of infections, combined with intense pressure on the health system, cannot leave us indifferent and requires difficult decisions, drastic measures,” Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told reporters.
The new restrictions, running from April 26 to May 9, mean that people are encouraged to work from home and must seek authorization for only one non-work-related trip daily.
Non-essential shops will close, and a 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 am curfew will be imposed, tightening the start time from 11:00 pm.
Restrictions will be slightly eased for Orthodox Easter at the start of May.
After May 9, people wanting to gather — such as in a restaurant — must provide either a negative Covid-19 test result with 72 hours or proof they have either had their first vaccine jab or have contracted the virus within the past three months.
Ioannou said the measures would help the Mediterranean island’s vaccination rollout play catch up and ease pressure on hospitals, witnessing record patient admissions.
Local daily the Cyprus Mail reported Friday a record high number of coronavirus patients in state hospitals, with the western town of Paphos opening a second Covid-19 ward to cope.
“We are in a very difficult phase of the pandemic,” Ioannou said.
Cyprus is facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections fueled by the more contagious British variant, with daily cases peaking at a record 941 on Tuesday.
The situation marks a stark deterioration from September last year, when reported cases were often close to or at zero per day.
Cyprus detected 668 new cases per 100,000 people over the seven days to April 22 — the highest population-adjusted rate of any country in the world, AFP’s database shows.
Uruguay was second highest worldwide on this measure, with 558 detected infections per 100,000 people.


King Abdullah II declares Jordan’s ‘strong’ as defendants in ‘sedition’ case released

King Abdullah II declares Jordan’s ‘strong’ as defendants in ‘sedition’ case released
Updated 23 April 2021

King Abdullah II declares Jordan’s ‘strong’ as defendants in ‘sedition’ case released

King Abdullah II declares Jordan’s ‘strong’ as defendants in ‘sedition’ case released
  • The king said the “sedition” would not shake Jordan and that his country was “strong”
  • Defendants in sedition case released in honor of Ramadan

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in a meeting this week that in honor of Ramadan 16 defendants involved in a “sedition” case would be released.

“As a father and a brother to all Jordanians, and in this holy month of tolerance and solidarity, when we all wish to be with our families, I ask the relevant officials to look into the proper mechanism to have those who were misled into following the sedition, return to their families soon,” he said during the meeting with officials from Jordan’s various governorates at Al-Husseiniya Palace.

The king said the “sedition” would not shake Jordan and that his country was “strong.”

King Abdullah II said although “what took place was painful,” recent events in the kingdom “won’t shake us.”

Several people have been arrested since the beginning of April following events that threatened to undermine the kingdom’s security and stability.

Reaffirming his commitment to the Jordanian people, the king said: “My duty, goal, and the pledge I have made is to serve and protect our people and country, and this is the standard that defines how we deal with everything.”


Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Updated 23 April 2021

Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
  • Tripoli laying path for ‘fair, legal elections,’ minister tells Italian MPs

ROME: “Stability, peace and security” are Libya’s major priorities ahead of the country’s next elections, Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush told a meeting of Italian MPs.

Speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News, El-Mangoush said that Libya’s transitional government intends to “talk to everyone the same way and put a new agenda on the table.”

“Peace and security will not be possible without regional and international support,” she said.

Libya’s first woman foreign minister addressed Italian MPs for more than an hour, and was quizzed on her Cabinet’s views on issues ranging from Libya’s relationship with Italy to tackling illegal immigration. 

She said that Libya takes responsibility for violations of migrants’ rights in its territory, but urged the global community to adopt a “different and alternative approach” to stop the flow of illegal immigrants crossing the country’s southern borders.

“Illegal immigration is a broad and thorny topic. However, it is not only a Libyan issue, but a regional and an international one,” El-Mangoush said.

“I ask the international community to be practical and proactive: You need a strategy that is consistent with the current phase. Blaming the coast guard is useless. We have an uninterrupted flow of migrants coming from African states. We do not know who is coming: They could be criminals or sick.

“We are against the violation of human rights and we are sad for the condition of these migrants, but Libya is a transit country for migratory flows and our resources are limited.”

She added that “in southern Libya, we have a famine in progress. What can you ask to a people on the edge  of famine? How can these people help somebody arriving from the south if they need help themselves? Please, don’t blame us, but try to understand the difficult situation we are facing. We have limited resources and outdated policies to deal with this.”

Discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, the minister said she believes this will not happen in a day, but will be the result of long negotiations. However, she believes that the dialogue with several states involved “gives us hope.”

“For us, sovereignty is the top priority, so stability and security are in order to be able to hold democratic, clean and legal elections,” she said.  

“We asked everyone, including Turkey, for cooperation to get all foreign forces off Libyan soil. Our safe future depends on the withdrawal of foreign forces.”

El-Mangoush said that the Libyan government “wishes for an even bigger role for Italy to solve Libya’s crisis, to put an end to foreign interference and help us to release all foreign forces.”

She called for Italian help in economic, medical and cultural areas, including the restoration of Tripoli’s old town and ancient buildings in the center of Benghazi damaged by war.

“Only the Italians can do a good job,” she said.


Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
Updated 23 April 2021

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud

Thousands fall victim to $2bn Turkish cryptocurrency fraud
  • The founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, fled the country with about $2 billion, leaving more than 391,000 users defrauded
  • The fraud case coincided with an overnight decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to ban the use of digital currencies and assets to pay for goods and services from April 30

ANKARA: Turkey’s cryptocurrency market has seen its first large-scale fraud case after the founder of cryptocurrency exchange Thodex, Faruk Fatih Ozer, fled the country with about $2 billion, leaving more than 391,000 users defrauded.

Ozer reportedly escaped to Albania.

In collaboration with Turkish authorities, Interpol has issued a red notice for the fugitive wanted for prosecution.

Although an investigation was launched into the company whose accounts were blocked by the financial crimes investigation board MASAK on April 21, the scheme revealed loopholes in the system.

The company has operated since 2017. It recently shut down services for several days, saying that it will allow outside investment from “prestigious banks and funding companies” in order to serve partners.

However, shortly after the statement, users began facing problems with money transfers before the site became inaccessible.

The daily volume of cryptocurrency trading in Turkey is believed to be about $1-$2 billion.

The fraud case is the largest in Turkish history, and coincided with an overnight decision by the Central Bank of Turkey to ban the use of digital currencies and assets to pay for goods and services from April 30.

Among other decisions, the central bank also targeted people and companies that fund illegal activities or facilitate money laundering through cryptocurrencies.

The Thodex founder was previously photographed in a meeting with several top Turkish policymakers.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, Turkey ranked fourth among the 74 largest economies in the world and first in Europe for cryptocurrency adoption by the population.

“Thodex, as a cryptocurrency trading platform, is just another company in Turkey, and there are no laws for this kind of setup,” Fatih Guner, an expert on the cryptocurrency market, told Arab News.

Recent polls revealed that between 16 and 20 percent of Turks used or owned cryptocurrencies last year.

“The adoption is high, but the literacy is not that high. And the lack of literacy is crucial for cryptocurrency trading platforms because these platforms only make money if people buy and sell coins on their platforms. Exchanges from all over the world are investing in PR and dark marketing to gain new amateur traders, with influencers, YouTube creators, newsletter writers and Twitter trolls,” Guner said.

According to Guner, influencers work with exchanges to encourage inexperienced investors with false claims of profit.

“Turkey is a haven for coin exchanges because of the lack of legislation. The government has to step up and legislate heavily,” he said.

“In recent years, we saw that Turkish people heavily indulged in the lottery, football bets and all kinds of lawful gambling. The government seems to see exchanges as some other kind of gambling and loosely controls them to keep people busy while they live on the edge of poverty. Turkey’s cryptocurrency adoption rate is fourth in the world after Nigeria, Vietnam and the Philippines. The economic resemblance is uncanny,” Guner added.

Experts have long urged the government to take tougher measures to deal with criminals who defraud amateur cryptocurrency investors.

In March, a man in the southern Turkish city of Antalya killed his two children and wife before committing suicide after losing a large sum of money in Bitcoin investments.