Kuwait abandons nuclear programme after Fukushima fallout

The Gulf state had originally planned to build four nuclear reactors to preserve its oil reserves
Kuwait abandons nuclear programme after Fukushima fallout
Kuwait has scrapped its plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2022, following the crisis in Fukushima last March.
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Thu 23 Feb 2012 12:21 PM

Kuwait has abandoned its nuclear programme this week on the back of the Fukushima disaster last year, according to media reports.

Officials from a Kuwaiti government research body told the Japan Times that the Gulf state had scrapped its plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2022, following the crisis in Japan last March.

The country announced plans to invest in nuclear energy as far back as 2009 in a bid to preserve its oil, also signing accords with the US, France and Russia to boost cooperation in atomic energy.

In September 2010, Kuwait’s National Nuclear Energy Committee told Reuters it was considering options for four planned 1,000 megawatt reactors, and would release a “roadmap” for developing atomic power in January 2011.

However, in July, last year, just four months after the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima 1 plant that came after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Emir Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah ordered for the committee to be dissolved.

Officials said the Japan disaster had sparked concerns over the need for reactors in Kuwait, and questions about where to store radioactive waste.

Kuwait is one of several Middle Eastern countries which previously announced its intentions to press ahead with a nuclear programme, in the hopes of better meeting the region’s soaring energy demands and protecting its existing oil reserves.

The UAE, whose plans have been dubbed “gold-standard”,  is currently building four nuclear reactors in a remote area outside Abu Dhabi, with the first scheduled to complete in 2017. It will be the first Arab country to develop such a plant.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar have also voiced their intentions to go nuclear, with the former two countries expected to make progress soon.

Analysts believe other Gulf countries are unlikely to be swayed by Kuwait’s decision to abandon its plans, given the range of attitudes towards nuclear within the region. 

“There was announcement a couple of months back that Kuwait was rethinking its nuclear plans,“ said Dubai-based energy analyst Robin Mills. “But I wouldn’t draw wider implications into the Gulf’s nuclear policy. The UAE programme is going ahead, and seems to be on schedule, construction has started.

“Then you’ve got Saudi and Jordan, which are some way behind, but also made quite a lot of commitment to their nuclear programmes. If anything, the Saudi push on nuclear has been increasing.”

Kuwait is not the first country to turn away from nuclear. Others, such as Germany, Switzerland and Italy, have also decided to scrap their plans for atomic energy for safety and ethical reasons.

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