The history of atomic energy holds many achievements and improvements over the last 60 years. In 1950, research and development of using atomic energy in the production of electricity began in search of a low-cost source of energy. By 1960, 17 nuclear reactors had been built to produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity. Now, there are more than 400 nuclear power plants operating in 26 countries, accounting fo
r 16% of the produced electricity around the world.
Nuclear reactors have the advantage of reducing carbon emissions compared to conventional methodology such as burning fossil fuels. In addition, it is considered a highly reliable source. These reactors produce energy daily throughout the year, and stops only in case of maintenance or refueling. Electric power is generated by the heat of the uranium nucleus splitting in the core of the nuclear reactor where the nucleus of the uranium emits 235 neutrons, resulting in the fission of the uranium nucleus and the release of energy, as well as two or three neutrons. The split nucleus is transformed into two new atoms; usually the two
new atoms are barium and krypton, which cannot be seen with the naked eye. Then, a process called "Chain Reaction" would take place when the extra neutrons released when the uranium nucleus breaks apart are further collided with more uranium nuclei, leading to further fragmentations, thereby releasing more energy. The energy produced by nuclear fission warms up the water inside the nuclear power plant, which in turn warms and evaporates another source of water, resulting in a spin on a turbine connected to a generator to produce electricity.
The safety of nuclear reactors are highly advanced, and therefore the risk has been significantly reduced after the emergence of the third generation of power plants, which is a safer and more effective design. Saudi Arabia will use only the most advanced technologies selected for its security, safety and safeguards that meets the highest international standards when constructing nuclear reactors.
One of the most important benefits of atomic energy is its contribution to the growth of high-level job opportunities, the formation of nuclear technical capabilities, and the preparation of Saudi youth to become capable leaders in the coming years. In addition, atomic energy will grant tremendous developments in industry for the future, including the development of atomic engineering, advanced research and technology of nuclear reactors, and fuel cycle research and development. Moreover, it will contribute to the development of many other fields such as medicine, agriculture, minerals and desalination.
Demand for electricity is increasing by more than 7% per year; this represents an increasing demand for hydrocarbon resources that requires utilizing alternatives, sustainable and reliable sources of electricity generation and desalinated water production. Which in turn will reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The entry of nuclear energy will increase the assurance for the future production of water and electricity while providing hydrocarbon resources for a longer period. It will also strengthen the energy industry in Saudi Arabia, and subsequently, employment opportunities and development of the industrial and investment sectors.
The first steps were taken in 2009, when a royal decree was issued stating, "The development of atomic energy is essential to meet the Kingdom's increasing demands for the energy needed to generate electricity, produce desalinated water and reduce the dependency on hydrocarbon resources consumption." This step was the beginning of the official announcement of Saudi Arabia's quest to obtain peaceful "nuclear energy", followed by the announcement of the establishment of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in 2010, which aims to build a sustainable future in Saudi Arabia by merging the sources of atomic and renewable energy within the local energy system.
K.A.CARE is considered the responsible entity for the development of atomic energy in Saudi Arabia, enabling atomic energy to contribute to the national energy mix and meet the requirements of the national sustainable development stipulated in the ambitious Vision 2030, in accordance with local requirements and international obligations, making atomic energy part of the energy system in Saudi Arabia, as well as enhancing the pioneering role of Saudi Arabia as an energy-efficient country. For more information click here