LONDON (Bloomberg) - Iraq is working on a plan to build nuclear reactors as the electricity-starved petrostate seeks to end the widespread blackouts that have sparked social unrest.
OPEC’s No. 2 oil producer -- already suffering from power shortages and insufficient investment in aging plants -- needs to meet an expected 50% jump in demand by the end of the decade. Building atomic plants could help to close the supply gap, though the country will face significant financial and geopolitical challenges in bringing its plan to fruition.
Iraq seeks to build eight reactors capable of producing about 11 gigawatts, said Kamal Hussain Latif, chairman of the Iraqi Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority. It would seek funding from prospective partners for the $40 billion plan and pay back the costs over 20 years, he said, adding that the authority had discussed cooperation with Russian and South Korean officials.
Plunging crude prices last year deprived Iraq of funds to maintain and expand its long-neglected electricity system. The resulting outages triggered protests that threatened to topple the government.
“We have several forecasts that show that without nuclear power by 2030, we will be in big trouble,” Latif said in an interview at his office in Baghdad. Not only is there the power shortage and surge in demand to deal with, but Iraq is also trying to cut emissions and produce more water via desalination -- “issues that raise the alarm for me.”