It was music to my ears to hear the statement by Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman at the 67th International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna last week that the Kingdom intends to develop peaceful uses for nuclear energy across various fields.
The minister also reiterated Saudi Arabia’s plans to operate a regional cooperation center with the International Atomic Energy Agency to create human capabilities in response to nuclear emergencies and other regulatory aspects at the national, regional and international level.
Furthermore, Prince Abdulaziz stressed the importance of concerted international efforts to implement the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the importance of confronting nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, which requires the full implementation of Resolution No. 1995 to establish a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
It is worth noting that more than a decade ago, Saudi Arabia set up a dedicated center for nuclear energy under the name King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. The city aims to integrate atomic and renewable energy with the national energy system by activating comparative advantages and creating new ones from all value chains in the atomic and renewable energy for sustainable development.
The main advantage of nuclear power plants is they produce no greenhouse gas emissions during operation, and throughout their life cycle nuclear has about the same amount of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per unit of electricity as wind and one-third of the emissions per unit of electricity when compared with solar.
Nowadays, about 10 percent of electricity comes from nuclear power worldwide, with some countries relying on it heavily. For example, it provides about 70 percent of electricity in France, with a specific supply to the UK, and more than 40 percent in Sweden. The next generation of nuclear power plants, innovative advanced reactors, will generate much less nuclear waste than today’s reactors.
For the Kingdom to have a pioneering role in the atomic and renewable energy sector, regionally and internationally, strategic partnerships with leading companies will be beneficial to accelerate its implementation plans. The Nuclear Energy Holding Co. will act as the country’s nuclear developer with an ambitious plan to build reactors with a nuclear capacity of 17 gigawatts by 2040.
As someone passionate about renewable energy, I recently started following up actively on the nuclear energy news because it will be the most important renewable energy option, considering all its advantages. I hope to attend the IAEA conference next year as a delegate and talk about the Kingdom’s progress in this important renewable energy source.
- Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.