Arabic Countries Join the Nuclear Club

Arabic Countries Join the Nuclear Club

In 1945 a US Air Force plane launched a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, leaving more than 70,000 people dead. This is what remains in the memory of humanity around each nuclear project, energy and weapons. Most of the Middle-East did not think about the use of peaceful nuclear energy, in a region of unlimited oil and gas. Their leaders did not pay much attention to diversify the sources of energy or to meet future needs.

In this century, Arab countries announced  their intent to build nuclear projects for peaceful purposes. But these objectives remain dreams for most of them, or remain at the research level, at the the exception of the United Arab Emirates.


After World War II, the Non-Aligned Movement was formed, which was the result of a collaboration between the late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. This alliance included energy production.

Egypt and India began their projects  and their nuclear cooperation at the same period. In 1975, Egypt established its Atomic Energy Corporation and opened in 1961 a nuclear reactor for research and training area Anshas, supplied by the Soviet Union.

After the October 1973 war, Sadat decided to continue the nuclear project. Egypt tried to focus on a nuclear plant in the western Sidi Krier northern Sahel region in 1974. But Sadat’s dreams collided with a strong lobby from the US to inspect or stop the project.

After Sadat’s departure, Egypt decided in the era of Mubarak to resume its nuclear program, to meet the electricity needs, and to build eight nuclear power stations. But the project was stopped again after the blast that rocked the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine in 1986.

Later, Egypt announced the reopening of the project in 2007. In November 2015, Egypt signed an agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa northwest of the country, with four reactors, over 12 years. Each reactor would have  a capacity of 1200 MW .

United Arab Emirates

In 2009, the UAE launched the nuclear energy program, and in the same year founded the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, ENEC.

ENEC oversees the four nuclear reactors at Barakah site, targeted exclusively for the production of energy. According to the Foundation, “The increasing demand for energy in the country at an annual rate of 9%, which is equivalent to three times the global average, stresses the need for a reliable source of electric power for future growth in the state. The project will provide a total production capacity of 5.6 GW, the first unit will begin generating electricity in 2018.

Saudi Arabia

In 2010, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy ( KA CARE) launched the scheme to “propose a national policy for Atomic and Renewable Energy, and to implement the necessary strategic plan.”  In 2011 it announced its intention to create 16 nuclear reactors with a total cost of $ 300 billion by 2030.


In 1986, Jordan launched an action plan aimed to introduce civil nuclear energy use.  Jordan imported nearly 98% of its energy from oil products. The country  is struggling to meet demand for electricity, which is growing by more than 7% annually due to the increase in population and industrial expansion.

In March 2015, the authorities signed an agreement with Rosatom for the construction of  two reactors of 1,000 Mw each to be operational by 2022.

The major challenges   

Arab nuclear projects are facing many challenges, the most important is the financial cost for the establishment of these projects.

The environmental challenge, with a constant fear of radiation leakage, as it occurred in Japan in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after an earthquake. The disaster prompted Kuwait, for example, to cancel its project to build a nuclear power plant.

Finally,  the question of war and political turmoil in the region is another challenge in front of a productive and useful nuclear projects. These projects require a highly secured project, especially from terrorism threats.

About Author

Arnaud Lefevre

Arnaud Lefevre is the Chief Executive Officer of Dynatom International. Arnaud is in charge of the international development of the business portfolio.