Saudi Arabia is pressing ahead with its ambitious plans to develop nuclear power to meet rising electricity demand and save oil for export, and not local consumption for electricity generation. Some estimates state the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter, will burn as much as 1.2 million barrels of oil daily on electricity production, almost double the 2010 total, to meet domestic and industrial demand. This is crucial, as the Saudis are driving to build an industrial infrastructure to sustain the economy when the oil fields run down.
In 2010, the King Abdullah Center for Atomic and Renewable Energy, known as KA CARE, was established to oversee the gulf state’s nuclear program under its president, Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, who was accorded ministerial powers.
In 2010 it took 3.4 million barrels of oil equivalent a day — known as boe/d — to power domestic electricity generation. This is expected to more than double by 2028 to 8.3 million boe/d.
The aim of the Saudis’ $100 billion nuclear program is to achieve an electricity output of 110 gigawatts by 2032. Current Saudi electricity capacity is 52GW from 79 power stations. At least 16 nuclear reactors, each costing around $7 billion, are planned, with the first producing by 2019.
The strategy is to adopt an energy mix approach. That means fossil fuels will still be needed, probably as the primary energy source, while wind, solar and nuclear power capabilities are developed. KA CARE is developing solar power projects that should produce 41GW within 20 years with geothermal and waste-to-energy systems providing 4GW.
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