RIYADH, Aug 25: Saudi Arabia has chalked out plans to build 16 nuclear reactors with a combined generation capacity of 22 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 at a cost of $100 billion. This amounts to half the country’s current electricity output and means that crude oil thus saved will be available for export.

Abdul Ghani bin Melaibari, coordinator of scientific collaboration at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, told Arab News here that the first two reactors would be ready within 10 years.

“After 10 years we will have the first two reactors,” Melaibari emphasised. “After that, every year we will establish two reactors until we have 16 by 2030. We would like to cover 20 percent of electricity needs using nuclear energy.”

Power demand in Saudi Arabia is estimated to grow seven to eight per cent over the next 10 years. It is the largest economy of the GCC, with an annual GDP of $622 billion and a GDP per capita of $24,200.

Although a number of countries have been reviewing their nuclear energy strategy after the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, most GCC countries continue to opt for nuclear power as a way to meet rising electricity demand and are reducing reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

Plans are on to invest heavily in nuclear power over the coming decade. Four years ago, the UAE awarded a South Korean consortium a contract to build four nuclear power plants worth $20.4 billion.