• 3 minutes Looming European Gas Crisis in Winter and North African Factor - a must read by Cyril Widdershoven
  • 7 minutes "Biden Targets Another US Pipeline For Shutdown After 'Begging' Saudis For More Oil" - Zero Hedge Monday Nov 8th
  • 12 minutes "UN-Backed Banker Alliance Announces “Green” Plan to Transform the Global Financial System" by Whitney Webb
  • 10 mins Microbes can provide sustainable hydrocarbons for the petrochemical industry
  • 4 hours Hunter Biden Helped China Gain Control of Cobalt Mines in Africa
  • 6 hours CO2 Electrolysis to CO (Carbon Monoxide) and then to Graphite
  • 5 days Building A $2 Billion Subsea Solar Power Cable From Chile To China
  • 3 days Is anything ever sold at break-even ? There is a 100% markup on lipstick but Kuwait can't break-even.
  • 3 hours NordStream2
  • 3 days Modest drop in oil price: SPRs vs US crude inventory build
  • 4 days 2019 - Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities.
  • 4 days Monday 9/13 - "High Natural Gas Prices Today Will Send U.S. Production Soaring Next Year" by Irina Slav
  • 6 days Ukrainian Maidan after 8 years
  • 6 days Peak oil - demand vs production
U.S. Rig Count Climbs As Oil Prices Crash

U.S. Rig Count Climbs As Oil Prices Crash

The U.S. oil rig count…

Oil Prices Crash As Covid Does What Biden Couldn’t

Oil Prices Crash As Covid Does What Biden Couldn’t

Renewed Covid fears have managed…

Why Is Ukraine Ignoring Its Massive Bioenergy Potential?

Why Is Ukraine Ignoring Its Massive Bioenergy Potential?

Bioenergy offers a promising alternative…

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

More Info

Premium Content

Is This The Beginning Of A Nuclear Power Race In The Gulf States?

One of the world’s largest oil producers and exporters, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has just launched the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world.  Touted as a major milestone for the UAE and its energy diversification, the project raises questions about the economic viability of an expensive nuclear power plant in one of the best spots for solar energy in the world. 

More importantly, the project also raises questions about the geopolitical implications of a nuclear facility in the restive Middle East region, where tensions increased after the assasination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani earlier this year.

Iran could trigger a nuclear arms race, experts say. 

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) successfully started up on Saturday Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi, saying that the process was undertaken in line with regulatory requirements and the highest international standards for nuclear quality and safety. 

“We are now another step closer to achieving our goal of supplying up to a quarter of our Nation’s electricity needs and powering its future growth with safe, reliable, and emissions-free electricity,” said ENEC’s chief executive Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi.

With the start-up of the Barakah nuclear power plant, the UAE became the first country in the Arab world, and the 33rd nation globally, to develop a nuclear energy plant to generate electricity, helping the oil-rich emirates to move towards electrification of its energy sector and decarbonization of its electricity production, ENEC says. 

Related: U.S. Refiners Brace For Ugliest Losses In A Decade

Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that the agency supports the UAE and other countries “that opt for introducing nuclear power, which plays a key role in achieving clean & affordable energy and in tackling #ClimateChange.”  While the UAE touts the safe and zero-emission electricity generation from nuclear power, some experts question the ‘safety’ part of that claim because of the lack of additional (and costly) safety features in the South Korean technology that the UAE uses for its first nuclear power facility. Rising sea levels also pose risks for the coastal Barakah nuclear plant, while radioactive waste could endanger marine life in the Gulf, Paul Dorfman, Founder and Chair of the non-profit Nuclear Consulting Group, wrote in an overview of UAE’s new reactors in December 2019. 

But the most concerning aspect of the first civil nuclear project in the Arab world is that it could spark a nuclear arms race and facilitate nuclear proliferation options for actors in the Gulf that choose to pursue it, experts warn.

“The tense geopolitical environment in the Gulf makes nuclear a more controversial issue in this region than elsewhere, as new nuclear power provides the capability to develop and make nuclear weapons,” Dorfman said. 

“It’s worth noting that emergent back-channels exist which may facilitate Gulf states obtaining advanced nuclear fuel cycle enrichment technologies if the decision is made to pursue a military proliferation option,” he noted.  

The simmering tensions between the Arab Gulf states – led by the UAE’s ally Saudi Arabia – on the one hand, and Iran, on the other hand, is a concern for energy and nuclear power experts. Iran is already under U.S. sanctions because of its nuclear ambitions. 

In March 2018, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in an interview that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”  

Related: COVID Pandemic Has Upended MLPs

The UAE has an agreement with the United States in which the emirates have renounced any intention to develop domestic enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. 

“For Gulf Arab rulers who fear that Washington is not a reliable long-term guardian, nuclear power generation may offer an alternate path to maintaining a US strategic interest in securing their regimes,” Jim Krane, a Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute, wrote earlier this year. 

Last but not least, the UAE nuclear power plant raises questions about the economics of pursuing costly nuclear electricity generation while solar power generation could thrive in the region endowed with sunlight. 

Just last week, the Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) announced the awarding of contracts to develop the world’s largest solar power plant of 2 gigawatts (GW) of capacity.

According to Nuclear Consulting Group’s Dorfman, new nuclear power generation can now only be built with very significant government subsidy, unlike renewables. 

“Since new nuclear makes little apparent sense in the Gulf, which has some of the best solar energy resources in the world, the nature of the interest in nuclear may lie hidden in plain sight,” he argues.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

Download The Free Oilprice App Today

Back to homepage

Leave a comment
  • James Schinder on August 03 2020 said:
    What kind of title is that? "UAE launched their first nuclear plan, and Iran may soon follow"?? Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant has been operational since 2015. Just google before you write anything. Also what does a nuclear power plant has to do with arms?

Leave a comment

EXXON Mobil -0.35
Open57.81 Trading Vol.6.96M Previous Vol.241.7B
BUY 57.15
Sell 57.00
Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News