Saudi Arabia Nuclear Energy

Matthew Lebovitz
March 7, 2015

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2015


Fig. 1: Map of Saudi Arabia by Administrative Divisions (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Saudi Arabia has traditionally been known for its oil production. However, over the last few years, Saudi Arabia has made plans to create a sustainable nuclear energy program. They hope to create this program to reduce by half the natural gas it burns to generate electricity. According to Al Sulaiman, the vice president for renewable energy at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, "Saudi Arabia's demand for petroleum products - demand for energy - is rising at a high and very alarming rate. Population growth and robust economic development and many reasons drive that demand." [1] Along with nuclear plans, Saudi Arabia expects to develop solar and wind power. [2] Fig. 1 is included on the right side to provide context for this discussion on Saudi Arabian nuclear energy, for those unfamiliar with the different regions of the nation.

Importance of Nuclear Energy

In 2013, Saudi Arabia was the world's largest holder of crude oil proved reserves and was the largest exporter of petroleum liquids. [3] Currently, the country uses its vast supply of oil and gas to generate its power. Saudi Arabia burns approximately 800,000 barrels of gas a day of oil to satisfy domestic demands. [1,4] This current oil and gas consumption is unsustainable. Over the next two decades, Saudi Arabia expects domestic power demand to triple. [1] Combined with rising crude oil, there will be insufficient gas to provide power for the country and Saudi Arabia would be forced to before an importer of oil instead of an exporter. Because of these issues, the nation has decided to look towards others energy sources, such as nuclear energy and solar power, to provide future electricity. In 2012, Saudi Arabian officials envisioned that the country would have 16 nuclear reactors by 2030 that would have a combined capacity of 14 gigawatts. [5] In a step forward for this plan, the nation signed a nuclear cooperation deal with France and South Korea in 2011 and China in 2012.

Recent Problems

In January of 2015, Saudi Arabia announced that it was delaying its plans for a clear energy by eight years. Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, announced: "We have revised the outlook to focus on 2040 as the major milestone for long-term energy planning in Saudi Arabia." [5] Because of the need for alternative energy, it is important Saudi Arabia keeps its nuclear energy plans on track to keep producing electricity for its country.

© Matthew Lebovitz. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Solar, Nuclear Energy to Cut Saudi Oil Demand, Official Says," Bloomberg, 3 Apr 11.

[2] M. Alshakhs, "Challenges of Solar PV in Saudi Arabia," PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2013.

[3] "Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia," U.S. Energy Information Administration, 10 Sep 14.

[4] H. Aljamaan, "The Importance of Nuclear Energy to Saudi Arabia," PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2014.

[5] A. Dipaola, "Saudi Arabia Delays $109 Billion Solar Plant by 8 Years," Bloomberg, 19 Jan 15.