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Kuwait - The Nuclear Option.

Like fellow GCC states, the government has been studying nuclear power, regarded as part of the long-term solution to the Gulf energy challenge. Abu Dhabi already has committed big capital for the nuclear option, while the other GCC states are still studying this, with offers coming from the US, France, Japan and other OECD powers.

In April 2010, the MEW signed an initial agreement with the French nuclear firm Areva. The MEW has short-listed three sites for the planned nuclear plants. Its consultants - AFNI France Nuclear and Lightbridge of the US - have delivered the findings of their study on the nuclear option and recommended site. Two of the sites are Bubyan and Failaka islands. But local planners in early 2011 raised concerns over the environmental impact of nuclear plants on the islands. The 43 sq km Failaka is only 20 km east of Kuwait City and is being developed into a major tourism and leisure resort. Environmental impact studies found that Bubyan had significant terrestrial and marine bio-diversity; and a nature preserve is one of the key elements of this island's master-plan.

Nuclear technology is compelling. Fission generates vast amounts of energy in plants far smaller than their conventional equivalents. Operating costs are less than half. The amount of uranium required is tiny and there are no carbon emissions.

At the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) there is consensus that nuclear power should meet at least part of the Middle East's long-term energy needs. But there are nagging doubts. The first is about the cost of nuclear power station construction. It takes up to $8,000 for every kilowatt of electricity capacity if decommissioning is taken into account. A 750MW plant, probably the smallest viable size for a nuclear one, could cost about $6 bn. That is up to six times more than a conventional unit with the same capacity.
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Publication:APS Review Downstream Trends
Date:May 30, 2011
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