Importing solar energy and exporting uranium

What is remarkable in the figures and statistics on global trade, and the breakdown of the goods traded present in the reports of the OECD, is that the most important imports of major industrialized countries are oil and hydrocarbons, while their most important exports are nuclear power plants.

Based on these statistics, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey import nuclear reactors and machinery equivalent respectively to 18.85, 18.86 and 11.17 percent of the value of their total imports, and export 7.76 percent of the total value of their exports in hydrocarbons, with the exception of Turkey which exports items that fall under the title of nuclear reactors.

On the other hand, Japan (34.87 percent), China (14.82), India (39.5), South Korea (32.72) and Australia (15.83) import of the total value of their imports each in hydrocarbons and their derivatives, and export respectively 19.37, 18.82 (India nil), and 10.76 (Australia nil) in nuclear reactors and heavy machinery, of the total value of their exports.
At the top of the list of exporters of nuclear reactor equipment and materials lie Germany with 19.03 percent, Britain (15.05), France (12.53), Italy (21.27), the United States (14.83), and Canada (7.57) of the total value of their exports each, while they import hydrocarbons and their derivatives, equivalent respectively to 14.24, 12.97, 16.49, 20.25, 23.2 and 12.39 percent of the total value of their imports, with hydrocarbons at the top of the list of their imports.

In contrast, African countries import nuclear reactors, boilers, and machinery as staple items, starting with South Africa with (21.86), Nigeria (13.41), Algeria (15.33), and Egypt (16.82) percent of the total value of their imports.

These statistics highlight the perpendicularity between the interests of developed countries and the resources of developing or emerging market countries. When it comes to the trade balance, developed countries seek to sell the services of their companies and market their industrial goods in foreign markets. Such issues translate into understandings within the WTO, or political pressures to adjust the value of competing export currencies, place protective measures or even ban certain exports, while export techniques aim to absorb the returns on trade surpluses, using many approaches and enticements.

It was normal, where hydrocarbons are involved, that major industrialized countries have been providing the technology to extract oil and gas and related substances at all levels, in return for obtaining these hydrocarbons and their derivatives from producing countries. In this regard, the rivalry is most dramatic among the industrialized countries, which compete to achieve their goals. This is while oil producing and exporting countries, on the other hand, seek to preserve their rights so as to not squander their resources, while not causing a worldwide economic disequilibrium, which is the approach that OPEC follows.

In parallel, a new generation of energy is garnering broader commercial applications. For years now, many developed nations, in particular in the European Union, both individually and collectively, have begun to search for renewable sources of energy, in order to secure low-cost energy for consumption on the one hand, and to lower the harmful greenhouse gas emissions and save the planet on the other. These countries, which have made many strides in producing cheaper energy through nuclear reactors, are facing many problems when it comes to managing toxic nuclear waste that remain harmful for generations.

Thus, the focus of European countries is currently on renewable energies such as solar energy, which is available sufficiently and commercially in African Arab deserts and Arabian deserts, in addition to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. However, the most important of these is available in the Sahara in Africa, and in the UAE and Saudi Arabia at the level of the Gulf region, while Egypt is studying ways to produce electricity from wind power and solar energy in the future.

In spite of the diverse possibilities of exploiting solar energy to reduce power consumption, the focus takes on a wider-scale dimension involving the production of electricity and exporting it to Europe. And at a time when the European countries and other developed countries seek to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and are promoting the construction of nuclear reactors in Arab countries, they are at the same time implementing solar energy projects for their benefit.

In truth, the UAE is among the first in the region to build 4 nuclear reactors for peaceful use, with each to produce 1400 MW over ten years. The UAE also allocated 20.4 billion dollars for construction and equipment, and a similar amount for operation, maintenance and nuclear fuel over 60 years. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia established a science park for renewable nuclear energy, with a view to meet demand for energy and to contribute to the sustainable development of the country, headquartered in the King Abdullah city for atomic and renewable energy in Riyadh, and is quietly studying the possibility of exploiting this form of energy. Also, Morocco is trying to produce 900 MW of power using nuclear energy in 2015, while Egypt, Sudan and Jordan are studying the possibility of using this energy.

In contrast, Europe is seeking to produce electricity from the sun’s energy in the Sahara, where one percent of the latter’s total surface area (350 square kilometers) is enough to provide the whole world with renewable energy. The project, which costs 400 billion euros, provides 20 percent of the European Union’s needs of energy over 20 to 40 years, to be transmitted there through special cables with high efficiency. This is while Egypt and the UAE are seeking to produce around 100 MW at the cost of 714 and 600 million dollars.

There is no doubt that solar energy is witnessing much advancement, from the usage of photovoltaic cells and concentrating solar power stations, to photovoltaic arrays, solar ponds and other techniques. This ensures higher economic feasibility for solar power projects.

What remains thus is for Arab countries, which are ‘solar radiation’ rich countries all year round, to use solar power reactors, so long as one percent of the surface area of the Sahara alone can spare the whole world the need for power plants, and so that these countries do not face the problem of importing nuclear fuel and exporting or disposing of nuclear waste in the future. Solar energy thus is the most abundant source of renewable energy.

(Source: the London-based AL-HAYAT)


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