Nuclear Energy in the Middle East

Tatiana Balabanis
March 18, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: A photo of Yukiya Amano, Mohamad Al Hammadi, and Hamad Al Kaabi visiting the nuclear power plant in Barakah, UAE. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear energy as a form of clean energy is sweeping the globe. As of recently, it is entering conversations in the Middle East. Oil is an abundant non-renewable resource in the Middle East and thus a great source of income into those countries economies. Other nuclear states, specifically China, has been calling for for the peaceful development of the Iranian nuclear program and will continue to push that agenda for as long as they can. [1] It is also important to note that the way in which Iran and other Middle Eastern countries choose to go about implementing nuclear energy into their society will have a cascade of effects for the rest of the world and even more so with directly neighboring nations.


Nuclear energy is being introduced and developed in several locations and is entering the Middle Eastern sphere. France has been a great driving force in helping support Middle Eastern countries develop nuclear energy programs. [2] Of the countries with nuclear programs in progress, including but not limited to Libya, Turkey, and the UAE, the UAE currently has made the most progress with power reactors currently being built for nation. Fig. 1 shows IAEA and UAE officials visiting the construction site of a nuclear power plant in Barakah. Jordan and Egypt have gone through the legislative aspect of planning for nuclear development and have laid the groundwork for construction to come in the near future.

In December 2006 the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Oman announced that the Council was commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. [2,3] These countries produce 416 billion kWh per year and all of that energy is coming exclusively from fossil fuels which are continuously polluting our environment. [2] Saudia Arabia seems to have great plans in place to develop nuclear power reactors though to offset this immense use of fossil fuels. [4]

One of the main limiting factors that has prevented the further development of nuclear power programs in the Middle East is the facility of civilian nuclear power programs turning into military efforts and that introduces the involvement of international affairs. [5] Another aspect of developing nuclear power plants in the Middle East that needs to be considered is the availability of engineers who are familiar enough and trained with the technology required to operate these facilities.


There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to the development of nuclear energy and more importantly the elimination of excessive use of fossil fuels. The Middle East is playing a pivotal role in advancing these projects and taking steps in the right direction. With support from allies and countries that have already developed the technology needed to put this kind of energy in place and in motion, these nations will make a big difference in reducing both their non-renewable resource consumption and toxic emissions.

© Tatiana Balabanis. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. 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] F. Leverett and J. Bader, "Managing China - U.S. Energy Competition in the Middle East," Washington Quarterly 29, No 1,, 187 (2005).

[2] P. Crail and J. Lasky-Fink, "Middle Eastern States Seeking Nuclear Power," Arms Control Today 38, No. 4, 40 (2008).

[3] N. Albokhari, "The Scale of Nuclear Energy in Power Generation in Saudi Arabia," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[4] S. Aldousary, "Nuclear Energy Potential Uses in Saudi Arabia," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2016.

[5] "The Nuclear Question in the Middle East," Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, 2012.