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21 February 2024

GCC nuclear power stations will provide cheaper energy

By VM Satish



Energy-intensive industries such as aluminum, petrochemicals, steel and chemicals in the Gulf are facing a major challenge from record oil prices and high energy cost, but the proposed nuclear programme will help to generate sufficient amount of cheaper electricity.

Dr Ahmed Khalil Al Mutawa, Secretary General of the Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consulting (GOIC) said: “A floating nuclear power station in the Gulf can generate enough electricity at one-third of the cost of conventional electricity generation and help sustain energy-intensive industries.”

The proposed GCC nuclear power station is still under study, but is most likely to be a floating nuclear power plant based in the Arabian Sea because the nuclear reactor requires a lot of water for cooling and transferring heat from the core reactor. No Gulf country can provide such huge amount of water. Member countries may enter into long-term agreements to provide uninterrupted electricity supply for 50 years to 100 years. Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait are planning major investment in petrochemical complexes in collaboration with multinational companies such as Dow Chemicals and Borealis.

Speaking to Emirates Business, he said: “Within the next five years, the GCC will produce 20 per cent of the world petrochemical production. The current investment in the GCC petrochemical industry is around $100 billion (Dh367bn) and various governments are planning investment of between $80bn to $90bn in upstream petrochemical projects. The proposed nuclear power projects will provided cheaper energy to these projects and help maintain the competitive advantage of the region in petrochemicals.”

More than 55 per cent of the Gulf industrial investments are in petrochemicals due to the abundant supply of gas feedstock’s and raw materials. Cheaper energy from nuclear power plant is essential for large scale manufacturing companies in the UAE and Gulf, said Saed Al Awadi, Chief Executive officer, Dubai Export Development Corporation.

He said availability of cheaper energy from nuclear power station will ensure profitability of energy-intensive industries in the UAE.

Dr Ahmed said the governments are jointly developing the region into a petrochemical complex of the world.

Floating plants

According to experts, most nuclear power stations are cooled by water from a river, lake or oceans as tonnes of pure water is required to cool nuclear power plants. Reports say Russia has been building the world’s first floating nuclear power plant – a £100 million (Dh750m) vessel, the Lomonosov, – the first of seven plants that will bring vital energy resources to remote Russian regions and potential foreign markets. The International Atomic Energy Agency too approves of floating nuclear reactors for desalination plants in remote areas.