Nuclear power option

Rogner, H.-H. ORCID: & Eldin, A.S. (2013). Nuclear power option. In: Arab Environment 6: Sustainable Energy. Eds. Gelil, IA, El-Ashry, M, & Saab, N, Beirut: Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED).

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The Fukushima Daiichi accident initiated by a tsunami triggered a cycle of heightened fears and anxiety about nuclear power. It prompted governments around the world to assess the safety situation of their nuclear fleets or revisit their plans to start national nuclear power programs. Some countries decided to phase out the technology. Other countries decided to postpone the launch of nuclear power programs and put more emphasis on a comprehensive development of their national nuclear infrastructure. While the accident is expected to delay growth in nuclear power, it has not led to a significant retraction of national nuclear power programs globally. The factors that led before March 2011 to the revival in interest have not changed after the accident. Those are: rapidly growing electricity demand, the need for reliable base load electricity at stable and predictable costs, volatile fossil fuel prices, concerns for energy security, and environmental concerns, especially as related to GHGs emissions.

Several Arab countries have also shown an interest in nuclear power despite the fact that these countries hold the largest conventional oil and gas reserves globally. Why then would they consider the nuclear option or, as in the case of the UAE, launch a national nuclear power program with two nuclear power plants already under construction? The factors that rekindled the interest globally are to, a certain extent also, valid for many Arab countries. In addition, at current international market prices oil and gas rich countries can increase overall export revenue by deploying nuclear power domestically and sell the avoided domestic oil and gas use (for electricity generation and desalination) profitably in the international market place.

While there are many promising benefits, there are also demanding challenges and daunting obstacles to overcome on the road to nuclear power. Nuclear power is a highly complex technology. Mastering these to reap its benefits is a challenge. Nuclear power is less forgiving than other energy technologies, requiring persistent discipline in operation and strictest adherence to safety standards. Equally important is competent and effective regulatory oversight. Even technologically advanced countries can have serious weaknesses in their national nuclear programs. In technologically less advanced countries without a well-developed safety culture, the introduction of nuclear power needs to balance the added risk with the benefits. A successful, safe and secure nuclear power program requires a strong and unwavering long term national commitment, with high initial efforts to develop the required infrastructure, especially human resources and an effective and disciplined management system for all components of the nuclear fuel cycle. While technical solutions for the safe and secure ultimate disposal of nuclear waste do exist and are being pursued, lingering doubt and debate will continue globally until several implementations currently underway have been successfully demonstrated.

What is right for the Arab countries depends on the region's national preferences and policy priorities. For now, the unfolding changes in the region are pointing to delays in planning and implementation of nuclear power programs in several Arab countries.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Programs: Energy (ENE)
Bibliographic Reference: In: IA Gelil, M El-Ashry, N Saab (Eds); Arab Environment 6: Sustainable Energy; Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), Beirut, Lebanon pp.72-103 (October 2013)
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Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:49
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:23

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