(Adds UAE, Saudi Arabia nuclear plans)
May 21 (Reuters) - Many countries in North Africa and the Middle East have said they want to develop civilian nuclear programmes to meet rising power demand.
South Africa is the only country in either region with an operational nuclear power plant, but Iran plans to open one this year and other countries in the region could follow.
A slump in fossil fuel prices since summer 2008 has made nuclear power less attractive than it was when oil was above $147 a barrel in July 2008.
But nuclear is seen by many as a long-term solution to high fuel costs and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector.
Below are the nuclear aspirations of countries across Africa and the Middle East.
Algeria aims to build its first commercial nuclear power station by around 2020 and to build another every five years after that, energy minister Chakib Khelil said in February.
He said Algeria had atomic energy agreements with Argentina, China, France and the United States and was also in talks with Russia and South Africa.
“Towards 2020 we will probably have our first reactor and we’ll probably have a reactor every five years after that,” he said.
The OPEC member has plentiful oil and gas reserves but wants to develop other energy sources to free up more hydrocarbons for export.
Algeria has big uranium deposits and two nuclear research reactors but no uranium enrichment capacity.
Algeria and China agreed a year ago to cooperate on developing civilian nuclear power. [ID:nLO407096]
Egypt announced plans to build several nuclear reactors to meet rising power demand in 2007. China, Russia, France and Kazakhstan have all offered to cooperate in building them.
Industry observers have suggested the United States could be willing to help Egypt develop its nuclear programme if Egypt gave up the right to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, processes that can be used to make weapons-grade nuclear materials. [ID:nLA550594]
Iran plans to start up its first atomic power plant in the middle of 2009, its foreign minister said in March.
“The Bushehr nuclear power plant will be inaugurated in the summer,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told parliament in comments carried by state broadcaster IRIB in March 2009.
Tehran says the 915-megawatt Russian-built Bushehr plant will be used only for generating electricity in the world’s fourth largest oil producer.
But the West accuses Iran of covertly seeking to make nuclear weapons.
Iran has announced dates for starting the power plant in the past that have been missed. [ID:nDAH449805]
For a FACTBOX-Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant click here [ID:nLP420719]
Jordan had talks with French nuclear energy producer Areva CEPFi.PA in 2008 to construct a nuclear power reactor, Jordanian officials said.
They said Areva was a frontrunner among several international firms in talks with the kingdom to develop a nuclear reactor to meet rising demand for power.
Jordan has signed agreements with France, China and Canada to co-operate on the development of civilian nuclear power and the transfer of technology. [ID:nLR6563]
Kenya’s energy minister said in September 2008 the country was seeking investors to build a small nuclear plant to meet growing electricity needs.
East Africa’s biggest economy currently has 1,100 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, compared with peak time demand of 1,050 MW.
Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi said the government was considering building a 1,000 MW plant and estimated it would cost about $1 billion.
Nuclear power plants in Europe are expected to cost about four times as much to build. [ID:nLF201535]
Kuwait is considering developing nuclear power to meet demand for electricity and water desalination, the country’s ruler said in February 2009.
“A French firm is studying the issue,” daily al-Watan quoted Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as saying.
Nuclear power would save fuel that could be exported but which is currently used to generate electricity and operate water desalination plants, he said.
The comments came a week after a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Kuwait and a month after the United States signed a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates. [ID:nLI571142]
Moscow and Libya said in November 2008 they were negotiating a deal for Russia to build nuclear research reactors for the North African state and supply fuel.
Officials said a document on civilian nuclear cooperation was under discussion at talks between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Under the deal, Russia would help Libya design, develop and operate civilian nuclear research reactors and provide fuel for them. [ID:nL1206590]
Namibia, one of three countries in Africa besides Niger and South Africa producing uranium, plans to build a nuclear plant to supply the domestic market and the region.
“We are determined to build a nuclear plant both for Namibia and to trade power via the Southern African Power Pool,” Namibia’s deputy energy minister, Bernhardt Esau, said in February.
The south-west African country faces a shortfall of power and imports electricity from neighbouring South Africa, which has its own electricity supply problems.
The Namibian government is setting up a regulatory system with the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide the legal framework to build a nuclear plant.
Esau said the country had general talks with France’s Areva CEPFi.PA but would launch a tender process to select a company to build the plant. [ID:nLC243082]
Niger, one of the world’s top uranium producers, plans to build a nuclear power station to help solve an energy shortage in the region, an advisor to the minister of energy said in February.
“Nuclear is a solution being discussed now. We haven’t yet looked at details, but in a very short time we should come up with a way and the process to go forward and start approaching countries who are using nuclear power,” Adolphe Gbaguidi Waly said.
He said the country would ask South Africa, the only country on the continent with a nuclear plant so far, to help. [ID:nLB439868]
Initial Qatari interest in nuclear power plants has waned with the fall in international oil and gas prices, a Qatari official said in November 2008.
“It is less economically viable now, and less attractive. The potential costs are changing with the turmoil in financial markets, the economic slowdown and development of alternative fuels,” Yousuf Janahi, manager of business development at Qatar’s state-owned power company Kahramaa, said.
If Qatar decided to go ahead with building a nuclear plant, feasibility studies showed it would be unlikely to bring a reactor into operation before 2018.
French power giant EDF (EDF.PA) signed a memorandum with Qatar in early 2008 for cooperation on development of a peaceful civilian nuclear power program.
Qatar is studying nuclear power generation as a way to meet domestic demand while maximizing gas and oil exports. [ID:nLA568539]
France and Saudi Arabia are close to finalising a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement, while the United States and Russia are also interested in helping the world’s top oil exporter to develop nuclear energy.
The Gulf Cooperation Council — a loose economic and political alliance of six Arab states including Saudi Arabia — said in 2007 it was studying a joint nuclear energy programme. [ID:nLA479928]
The South African government expects the country’s next nuclear power plant to be built by 2019, two years later than planned by Eskom [ESCJ.UL] until the utility dropped plans in early 2009 to build one due to financial woes.
Eskom operates Africa’s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, with a total capacity of 1,800 megawatts.
Nuclear is a major part of South Africa’s energy diversification plan to reduce its heavy reliance on coal, which now supplies most of its electricity. [ID:nLC318079].
The United Arab Emirates hopes to have its first nuclear power plant producing electricity in 2015, an official from the International Atomic Energy Agency said on May 21.
But Ali Boussaha, a director at the IAEA, said it could take 10 to 15 years before any plant would be ready. [ID:nLL517756]
The Bush administration signed a nuclear deal with the UAE in January, despite concerns in the U.S. Congress that the UAE was not doing enough to curb Iran’s atomic plans.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed the nuclear energy cooperation deal, which she signed at the State Department with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan. [ID:nN15543733]
Compiled by Daniel Fineren