Iraq is working on a plan to build nuclear reactors, as the petrostat without electricity seeks to end the widespread blackouts that have caused social unrest.
OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer, which already suffers from energy shortages and insufficient investment in aged plants, must meet the expected 50% jump in demand by the end of the decade. The construction of atomic plants could help reduce the supply gap, although the country will face significant financial and geopolitical challenges in bringing its plan to fruition.
Iraq is looking to build eight reactors capable of producing about 11 gigawatts, said Kamal Hussain Latif, chairman of the Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority of Iraq. He sought funding from potential partners for the $ 40 billion plan and paid the costs for 20 years, he said, adding that the authority had discussed cooperation with Russian and South Korean officials.
The fall in crude oil prices last year deprived Iraq of funds to maintain and expand its long-forgotten electricity system. The resulting cuts sparked protests that threatened to overthrow the government.
“We have several forecasts that show that without nuclear power by 2030 we will have big problems,” Latif said in an interview at his Baghdad office. Not only is there a shortage of energy and rising demand, but Iraq is also trying to reduce emissions and produce more water through desalination, “issues that alarm me.”
Fundraising will be an important task as Iraq has suffered budget crises amid volatile oil prices. Even with crude at about $ 70 a barrel now, the country only balances its budget, according to data from the International Monetary Fund.
The government will also have to address geopolitical concerns about atomic energy security, which have hampered nuclear ambitions elsewhere in the region.
Nuclear power, which does not produce carbon dioxide, would help Gulf states ’efforts to reduce emissions, as governments around the world want to be greener. The technology would also allow them to export more of their valuable hydrocarbons. Saudi Arabia, which is building a test reactor, burns up to a million barrels of crude oil a day at power plants during the summer months, when temperatures soar above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
The Iraqi cabinet is reviewing an agreement with Russian company Rosatom Corp. to cooperate in building reactors, Latif said. South Korean officials this year said they wanted to help build the plants and offered Iraqis a tour of the reactors in the UAE led by Korea Electric Power Corp. Latif said the nuclear authority has also spoken to French and US officials about the plan.
Kepco, as the Korean energy producer is known, is unaware of Iraq’s nuclear plans and has not been in contact with Iraqi officials nor has he been asked to work on any projects, a spokesman for the Iraqi government said on Tuesday. company. Rosatom did not comment immediately when asked about an agreement with Iraq.
Even if Iraq builds the planned number of power plants, this will still not be enough to cover future consumption. The country is already facing a 10-gigawatt gap between demand and capacity and expects to need an additional 14 gigawatts this decade, Latif said.
With that in mind, Iraq plans to build enough solar plants to generate an amount of energy similar to that of the nuclear program by the end of the decade.
Iraq currently has 18.4 gigawatts of electricity, including 1.2 gigawatts imported from Iran. The additional capacity means generation will increase to 22 gigawatts in August, but it is much lower than the notional demand which stands at almost 28 gigawatts under normal conditions. According to the Ministry of Electricity, the maximum consumption during the hot months of July and August exceeds 30 gigawatts. Demand will reach 42 gigawatts by 2030, Latif said.
The nuclear authority has chosen 20 potential sites for the reactors and Latif suggested that the first contracts could be signed next year.
It will not be Iraq’s first attempt to go nuclear. Four decades ago, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a reactor under construction south of Baghdad. The Israelis alleged that the facility, called Osirak, was aimed at producing nuclear weapons for use. Iraq suffered more than a decade of violence and convulsions after the 2003 U.S. invasion, which was also motivated by accusations that Iraq wanted to develop weapons.
(Updates with Kepco’s comment in paragraph 10.)
–With the assistance of Dina Khrennikova, Olga Tanas and Heesu Lee.