Kuwait abandons nuclear power option

Feb. 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM
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KUWAIT CITY, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Kuwait has decided to abandon civilian nuclear power production.

The decision was prompted by the March 11, 2011, nuclear disaster at the Daiichi nuclear power complex in Japan, which was devastated by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and then hit by a tsunami, causing widespread destruction at the six reactor complex.

Accordingly, Kuwait is scrapping plans formulated last July to build four nuclear reactors by 2022.

Officials at the Kuwaiti government at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research made the announcement, Kyodo news agency reported Wednesday.

Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research scientist Osama al-Sayegh and two colleagues said the Fukushima incident resulted in the public questioning the necessity of building nuclear power plants in oil-rich Kuwait.

There was also the question of where Kuwait would store the radioactive waste generated by the NPPs.

Kuwait's interest in nuclear power began three years ago, when the country announced plans to invest in nuclear to preserve its oil reserves. Kuwaiti officials signed agreements with the United States, France and Russia, all leading nuclear power producers, to boost bilateral cooperation in developing an indigenous civilian atomic energy infrastructure.

The country's interest in NPPs began in earnest in September 2010 when Kuwait's National Nuclear Energy Committee told the media that it was considering options for four planned 1,000 megawatt NPP reactors and would release a national "road map" for developing civilian nuclear electrical power generation in January 2011.

The fallout from the Fukushima tragedy, however, saw Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah order that the National Nuclear Energy Committee be dissolved for months.

Fukushima's travails haven't deterred Kuwait's Persian Gulf neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, from pressing forward with its plans to construct four NPPs in a remote area outside Abu Dhabi. The first plant there is scheduled to be online in 2017, representing the first Arab country to develop a NPP.

Kuwait's reluctance to abandon nuclear power has not surprised local analysts.

"A couple of months ago there was an announcement that Kuwait was rethinking its nuclear plans," Robin Mills, an energy researcher in Dubai, told the Financial Times. "But I wouldn't draw wider implications into the (Persian) Gulf's nuclear policy.

"The (United Arab Emirates) program is going ahead and seems to be on schedule, construction has started.

"Then you've got Saudi and Jordan, which are some way behind, but also made quite a lot of commitment to their nuclear programs. If anything, the Saudi push on nuclear has been increasing."

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