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Kuwait drops out of the race
While plans to build nuclear reactors in the UAE develop apace, in February Kuwait announced it is abandoning its pursuit of civilian nuclear power production.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr Mohammad Al-Sabah confirmed that the small Gulf state had scrapped plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2022; reportedly the decision was heavily influenced by the March 11, 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in Japan.
Kuwaiti government officials at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) said the Fukushima incident had resulted in public scrutiny of the necessity of building nuclear power plants in the oil-rich nation. They added that there was also the question of where Kuwait would store radioactive waste.
Kuwait’s bid to produce nuclear power can be traced back to 2009, when the country signed deals with the US, France and Russia to boost bilateral cooperation in developing an indigenous civilian atomic energy infrastructure.
In September 2010 the Kuwait National Nuclear Energy Committee (KNNEC) said it was evaluating plans for four 1,000 megawatt (MW) reactors; however in the wake of the Fukushima disaster Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah ordered that the KNNEC be dissolved, its duties undertaken by the KISR, and greater attention be paid to utilising nuclear power for research and medical purposes as opposed to large-scale power generation.
Whether Kuwait’s proposed nuclear power stations would have been delivered even without the Fukushima factor is uncertain. Decades of underinvestment in power generation capacity has left Kuwait n urgent need of a long-term solution, and yet the country’s powerful but febrile parliament has proved an often insurmountable obstacle to infrastructure development.
Many observers had questioned whether a nuclear programme would be approved by parliament even if it had been given the thumbs up by the government.
“I’m not particularly surprised the nuclear plan was scrapped,” says Samuel Ciszuk at KBC. “In Kuwait you have a popular participation in politics that you don’t really see anywhere else in the Gulf, and when parliament decides it doesn’t want something, it usually gets its way.
The track record with getting big projects underway in Kuwait is appalling, just because of that constant tug-of-war between parliament and government.
“If they can’t even get their act together to build an oil refinery... then how could they have got a nuclear programme going?”