The GCC and the Nuclear Question

For a long time, nuclear energy appeared to be an unlikely scenario for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. However, the late 2000s have seen a policy U-turn in the GCC’s attitude toward nuclear power, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia now pursuing plans for their own nuclear reactors by the 2020s. The introduction of civilian nuclear programmes to the GCC is symptomatic of a more structural shift in the way the GCC and the wider Gulf produces and consumes energy. Rapidly rising levels of domestic energy consumption have already made the GCC a regional energy consumer rivalling the combined energy demand of Latin America. This renders alternative sources of energy, including nuclear power, an increasingly attractive long-term solution in view of the region’s otherwise rapidly rising drag on its own main export products – crude oil and natural gas. However, nuclear power raises a number of economic, political, and security question in the fragile Gulf region. This energy comment by Laura El-Katiri explores the reasons for the GCC’s pursuit of nuclear power, and questions the economic and political rationale behind the move.

By: Laura El-Katiri

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