One hundred and twelve billion dollars of investment, over a 20 years period, in order to become a regional exporter of electricity and provide for one-fifth of the country’s electricity for industrial and residential use and, critically, for desalinization of sea water. That’s what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning on for the next future. In the development of new oil fields, or the optimization of oil extraction and treatment systems? That’s what you would expect from a country which is commonly and generally regarded as the watchdog of oil and fossil fuels. Yet, this huge lot of money is going nowhere in the black gold: the target Saudi Arabia is aiming at is to build 16 nuclear, each of an estimated $7 billion spending, $112 billion investment overall.
The move, historical its way as it marks the end of the oil era in Saudi Arabia, has begun a few months ago, in April 2011, when the Saudi government announced the development of a nuclear city to train and house the technical workforce that will be needed to achieve these ambitious tasks.
It is clear that KSA’s plans for spending its sovereign wealth fund will be mostly focused on the home front.
Saudi Arabia political and economical leaders are showing the kind of longer period sight politicians in Europe do lack: aware that at the rate the country is burning its own oil, it may have substantially less to export in just a decade or so – or, at its best, it may lose the excess capacity the rest of the world relies on when there are disruptions in supplies from other countries – the royal family and its government have decided to turn to nuclear energy as a substitute. A decision inspired by the will, of the Saudi Arabia leadership, to ensure continuation of their country’s status as regional power, both military and political.
Plans to develop a nucleare energy industry include the building of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE), to ensure the necessary know-how, and of transmission and distribution grids to interconnect with the UAE on the east and Oman to the south. These are thought to serve to enhance Saudi Arabia’s control of the arabian peninsula and neighboing regions.
The new city’s charter states that nuclear and renewable energies, especially solar, would be developed to ensure continued supplies of drinking water and electricity to its growing population and save hydrocarbon resources such as petroleum and gas for use by future generations. The objective is to make them a source of income for a much longer period.
The 16 reactors KSA plans to build will be part of a strategy of being a regional exporter of electricity as well as meeting its own needs. Most likely, the reactor locations will be along the Red Sea or Persian Gulf coastlines.