How Soon Will Saudi Arabia Turn to Nuclear Energy?
By James Finch
While a growing number of countries have announced their civilian nuclear energy ambitions over the past twelve months, no other country is likely to have more of a psychological impact on the nuclear energy picture than Saudi Arabia. We believe the Kingdom’s natural gas and water problems will lead them to nuclear, sooner rather than later, probably as early as this year.
After our interview with Kevin Bambrough, which resulted in the widely read article, ‘Explosion in Nuclear Energy Demand Coming,” we began more deeply researching Bambrough’s conclusion. He believes the overwhelming growth in nuclear energy will continue to drive the uranium bull market much higher than is suspected. He believes the uranium renaissance has gone beyond the envelope of just a mining inventory shortage. We researched this further during the course of our investigation into uranium and geopolitics. We were surprised by what we discovered, and continue to be stunned by how accurate Mr. Bambrough’s forecast is likely to play out. We included the special sub-section, which follows, in our soon-to-be-published, A Practical Investor’s Guide to Uranium Stocks. Below is a sneak preview.
An April 2006 UPI news item confirmed what many have long believed. It won’t be long before Saudi Arabia launches a nuclear project. Kuwaiti researcher Abdullah al-Nufaisi told seminar attendees in Qatar that Saudi Arabia is preparing a nuclear program. He said the government was being urged to launch a nuclear project by Saudi scientists, but had not yet received the blessing by the royal family. Social, not energy, issues could help the Saudi royals embark on a large-scale nuclear program.
Of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s 24 million subjects, more than 40 percent are under 18 years of age. While still manageable, the country’s infrastructure is not prepared to deal with its explosive population growth. The two biggest problems facing Saudi Arabia are potential water and electricity shortages. True, its super oilfields may also have peaked in production and might move into tertiary recovery, but that is unknown. An Islamic revolution, similar to what Iran suffered in the 1970s is probably foremost in the King’s mind. Civil unrest might come about should his subjects suffer from insufficient electricity and inadequate water supplies. One need only look at the widespread electricity shortages Syria experienced in the 1980s and early 1990s.
As reported in the October 14, 2004 issue of Arab Oil and Gas, the Saudis lag well behind Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates in per capita energy consumption. The rate of natural gas consumption, which produces Saudi’s electricity, increased less than Egypt and Syria. Total energy consumption dropped by 3.5 percent in 1999 and 2000.