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Will Iraq’s $40 Billion Bet On Nuclear Power Solve Its Energy Crisis?

Iraq is in the process of developing a US$40-billion plan to build nuclear reactors as OPEC’s second-largest producer looks to end continual power outages amid a shortage of electricity supply, Kamal Hussain Latif, chairman of the Iraqi Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority, told Bloomberg in an interview.

Iraq has been suffering shortages of electricity supply since 2003, and those have led in recent years to protests where people have tried to enter oilfields to demand an end to the power outages. Electricity demand is exceeding supply now, and the gap is expected to widen further as demand grows if Iraq fails to resolve its power problem.

Iraq even imports electricity and natural gas for electricity from neighboring Iran, for which it has received U.S. waivers to deal with Iran’s energy sector even under the American sanctions on Tehran.

Expecting demand to continue to grow, Iraq is now considering the construction of eight nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 11 gigawatts (GW) this decade, Latif told Bloomberg.

Iraq has held talks with Russia’s Rosatom and Korea’s Kepco about possible cooperation.

Related: How An Oil Pipeline Hack Sent Bitcoin Prices Tumbling

Earlier this year, Latif told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that the country was in discussions with Russia, France, and the United States about the potential construction of three nuclear reactors.

“We have several forecasts that show that without nuclear power by 2030, we will be in big trouble,” Latif told Bloomberg this week.

Iraq also plans to build solar farms that would provide around 11 GW of electricity by the end of the 2020s. 

The first contract for a nuclear power plant could be signed over the next year, Latif told Bloomberg.

Currently, only the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has an operating nuclear power plant in the Arab world, after starting up Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi last summer.  

By Michael Kern for Oilprice.com

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