At present nearly 20% of the U.A.E’s entire oil production goes immediately towards supplying its various power plants into order to meet the energy requirements of its populace. The inherent problem with this lies with the fact that the oil reserves in the U.A.E are a finite resource and eventually with the increased demand for energy this resource will be consumed that much faster.
Not only that, the continued expansion of its energy infrastructure through the creation of more fossil fuel based power plants increase the possibility of environmental pollution affecting the area. Based on this dilemma this paper tackles the facts behind the current energy consumption of U.A.E and how nuclear power would be a viable means of providing the Emirate with sufficient power for continued growth in the future.
As the population of the U.A.E continues to swell so too does its use of utilities such as electricity continue to grow along with the increase in its population. Various, studies have shown that among all other countries it is the oil exporting states within the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia that have the greatest per person consumption of electricity on the planet.
The inherent problem with such a situation is that the continued growth of the region does not match the energy production capabilities of the various fossil fuel power plants with expansions needed on their energy capacity every year. Not only that, oil within the Emirate is a finite resource that can and will disappear within a few decades at the current rate of consumption.
It has been stated that “the main reason behind the recent growth of nuclear power plants is due to the possibility of impending exhaustion and the possible disruption of the supply of petroleum” (Anonymous 2011, 56). As such what is required in the case of the U.A.E. is to invest in an alternative form of energy to ensure that the region does not suffer from either a future energy crisis due to a lack of fuel or a polluted atmosphere as a result of unmitigated emissions from various power plants.
Energy Consumption within the U.A.E
One feature of the current energy consumption system currently being utilized by the U.A.E. is that the consumption of electricity within the Emirate is heavily subsidized by the government with most if not all energy production coming from fossil fuel burning power plants that utilize the same oil that the various countries within the Emirate export.
The main contributor to energy consumption within the U.A.E is its harsh climate; the fact is the U.A.E is located in a hot and arid desert with little rainfall whose primary export is oil and petroleum-based products (Wood N.I., 1). It was the oil industry that started the rapid industrialization of the region in an area that is one of the hottest and harshest places on the planet to live.
Such an environment places certain unique strains on the energy production capabilities of the region not apparent in other areas. For example, during summer months the outside temperature can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius which necessitates the need for constant and continuous energy use by the vast amount of air conditioning systems within the various countries within the Emirate (Alotaibi 2011, 637).
Environmental considerations must also be taken into account since the continued expansion of fossil fuel power plants within the various countries in the Emirate may very likely cause various negative environmental reactions associated with pollution and climate change. The inherent problem in utilizing fossil fuel burning power plants in the resulting carbon dioxide waste that gets expelled into the atmosphere (Vaillancourt et al., 2008, 2301)
It must be noted that increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere especially in areas where there are few natural ways for the resulting gases to be absorbed results in a significant accumulation in the air for quite some time which has the potential to cause various respiratory diseases(Vaillancourt et al., 2008, 2301).
China which possesses one of the world’s most extensive power grids which utilizes dozens of fossil fuel burning power plants has seen a rise in respiratory diseases as the amount of smog in the air continues to accumulate.
The problem within Utilizing Renewable Energy Resources
While utilizing renewable energy resources presents itself as a viable method of clean energy production the only inherent problem though with utilizing resources such as solar and wind power is that they are not as reliable compared to fossil fuel burning plants.
Solar energy is dependent on the sun, while Kuwait has more than enough free space to establish a solar array the fact remains that energy production cannot be done when there is no sunlight, as such solar power has a distinct limitation in that it cannot provide electricity 24 hours a day (Anonymous 2011, 56).
On the other hand wind power is not on a set schedule compared to solar power and can run at any time of day or night however wind power as a source of electricity is subject to a certain degree of unpredictability since there is no definite assurance that air currents will blow in a certain spot on a constant basis.
Nuclear Power as a Viable Energy Source
One alternative power source that is reliable and is not dependent on external factors such as the sun or the wind is the use of nuclear power. Nuclear power reactors are a proven technology utilized in the U.S., Japan as well as several 1st world countries. One of its advantages is that it can function at a fraction of the cost of fossil fuel plants, can produce more electricity and utilizes a fuel source that is not expended easily.
On average a single fossil fuel power plant can go through several thousand barrels of oil in a single day, NPP (Nuclear Power Plants) on the other hand use nuclear fuel rods which can last several years and are relatively inexpensive when compared to costs of oil.
While there are concerns regarding the possibility of meltdowns and radiation poisoning most NPPs have several backup systems to prevent this and so far in the history of the technology only 3 incidences of a nuclear meltdown have occurred and in all cases it was usually due to human error and not a failure of the technology itself (Kessides 2010, 3848).
Daily operations at an NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) are not as polluting compared to the emissions of fossil fuel burning power plants. The steam seen being emitted by various NPPs is merely evaporated water and does not truly present a threat to the environment. As such as far as emissions are concerned nuclear technology is a far cleaner method of energy production (Miettinen et al., 1976, 492).
As for its ability to produce electricity, a single nuclear reactor (depending on the size and scale) can rival and exceed the energy-producing capabilities of several fossil fuel plant, and the amount of energy loss is also minimized due to the overall design of the energy collection system.
Barriers to Setting up Nuclear Power plants in the U.A.E
Nuclear power was chosen as a viable means of energy production for the U.A.E based on the fact that it does not rely on oil, it does not release carbon emissions into the air, and it is a viable means of energy production that is comparatively cheaper to other alternatives (Kessides 2010, 3851).
While there are various arguments against its usage such as disposing of spent nuclear fuel rods and the possible threat of a nuclear meltdown as a result of user error the fact remains that on average NPPs are quite safe. Unfortunately one of the barriers in establishing this particular method of energy production is not the inherent cost but rather the history of the region.
The Middle East has the unfortunate distinction of being called an unstable region where terrorists are located. The U.S. states “this causes congressional concerns about the possible role of the UAE as a transshipment point for nuclear technology” (Anonymous 2008, 5). While such claims are based on unfounded and often preposterous the fact remains that building nuclear reactors is strictly regulated by an international body.
The political ramifications alone would cause the project to be mired in political red tape, and as such it is to be expected that an NPP (nuclear power plant) will not be built without some sort of obstacle presenting itself (Luomi 2009, 112).
Despite these apparent setbacks this paper still recommends the usage of nuclear power as a future energy source for the U.A.E due to the fact that as oil reserves continue to drop the price of energy production using the traditional method of fossil fuel burning power plants will become an almost unviable means of supplying energy to the populace of the country.
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