Riyadh: Oil giant Saudi Arabia Saturday gave
its strongest signal yet that it wants to develop atomic power
by announcing a new centre for nuclear and alternative energy
Former commerce minister Hashem bin Abdullah Yamani was
named to head the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable
Energies, to be built in Riyadh, said an announcement on the
official SPA news agency.
The government said the centre would undertake research
and develop projects in nuclear and alternative energies
toward the goal of diversifying the kingdom`s power generation
away from oil and natural gas.
While the Gulf kingdom has already been experimenting
with alternative energy sources like solar power, the latest
move confirmed its interest in nuclear energy.
The new entity is to draft a national policy on nuclear
energy development and supervise all commercial use of nuclear
power and the handling of radioactive waste, the announcement
It pointed to high growth in demand for electricity from
Saudi Arabia`s mainly oil- and natural gas-fired power plants,
especially for energy-intensive water desalination projects.
"The use of alternative sources of sustainable and
reliable electricity and desalinated water production reduces
the reliance on hydrocarbon resources, and thus provides an
additional guarantee for the production of water and
electricity in the future," it said.
While Saudi Arabia has the world`s largest proven oil
reserves and huge hydrocarbon riches, high population growth
and heavy energy subsidies have driven up domestic oil and gas
consumption at a rate that has sparked concern among planners.