Saudi Arabia’s population has grown from 4 million in 1960 to over 31 million in 2016. It is the main electricity consumer and producer in the Gulf region, with 345 trillion watts of gross production in 2016, of which 41 percent was produced from oil and 59 percent from gas. The electricity consumption in the country continues to grow substantially — by 8 to 10 percent annually, compared with less than 1 percent in Europe.

Faced with surging energy demand for economic growth, Saudi Arabia is turning to nuclear power to diversify its electricity-generating mix and therefore reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The Kingdom plans to build two large nuclear power reactors as part of a program of delivering as many as 16 nuclear power plants over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. It has projected 17 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2032 to provide 15 percent of the power then, along with more than 40 GW of solar capacity. Plans for small reactors for desalination are also well advanced.

Hamid Al-Saqqaf, director of independent production projects at Saudi Electricity Company, points out: “Introducing nuclear power into the national energy mix is a sovereign decision in every country, according to its needs. In Saudi Arabia, this decision was already made in advance. The Kingdom has a continuously elevating demand on electricity.