Energy shortages: Baghdad focuses on nuclear power


Energy shortages: Baghdad focuses on nuclear power

2021/06/11 | 09:22 - Source: Iraq News

(ThisDay | Iraq News Now)-

A 40-billion-dollar project to be implemented with the contribution of Russian and South Korean experts.

At least eight reactors are planned, with a capacity of 11 gigawatts.

However, it will not be easy to overcome the obstacles of a financial and geopolitical nature.

In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein wanted a nuclear arsenal, but Israel destroyed the first plant.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - To stem the energy crisis and the chronic lack of electricity, the source of continuous popular protests, Iraq is thinking nuclear power.

The decision comes despite the country being the second largest producer of crude oil among the nations of the OPEC cartel.

Kamal Hussain Latif, chairman of the Iraqi Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority, says the goal is to build at least eight nuclear reactors, capable of producing up to 11 gigawatts of power.

A project that provides for the collaboration of Russia and South Korea, worth a total of 40 billion dollars, with a repayment plan expected in 20 years.

The interruptions in the supply of energy and the scarce investments in extraction plants, now old, do not seem able to respond to a demand destined to grow by at least 50% by the end of the decade.

Building atomic plants could help bridge the gap, although there are not a few obstacles - financial and geopolitical - that are looming on the horizon for the Baghdad government in carrying out the project.

“We have several forecasts that show that without nuclear power by 2030, we will be in big trouble,” Latif said in an interview at his office in Baghdad.

Not only is there the power shortage and surge in demand to deal with, but Iraq is also trying to cut emissions and produce more water via desalination — “issues that raise the alarm for me.”

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have also started nuclear projects to free themselves from oil.

It will not be easy for Iraq to translate plans into concrete projects due to regional and international policy issues and the resistance related to the safety of atomic energy and the plants in which it is produced.

However, for many Arab and Gulf nations the atomic bomb - which does not emit hydrocarbons - is the only way to cut emissions and achieve "green" policy objectives.

Baghdad, meanwhile, is examining an agreement with the Russian firm Rosatom Corp for a collaboration in the construction of reactors.

In addition, this year South Korean officials have made themselves available to help build the plants, offering Iraqi colleagues a tour of the Emirati reactors managed by Korea Electric Power Corp.

The authority, Latif emphasizes, has also entered into talks with French and US officials.

The country now has about 18.4 gigawatts of electricity, of which 1.2 gigawatts are imported from Iran.

With the forecasts of addition, it should reach 22 gigawatts by August, still far below the real demand which, in normal conditions, is 28 gigawatts.

According to data from the Ministry of Electricity, the peak of use during the hot summer months of July and August exceeds 30 gigawatts, while the demand will reach 42 megawatts by 2030.

The Iraqi nuclear authority has already selected 20 potential sites and the first contracts could be signed next year.

Baghdad had already cultivated nuclear ambitions in the past: about forty years ago an Israeli air strike destroyed a reactor under construction south of Baghdad.

According to Jewish state intelligence sources, nuclear weapons were being developed at the Osirak plant.

And among the reasons - more or less real - that led the United States to attack and invade Iraq in 2003 was the suspicion of wanting to produce atomic weapons.



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