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13 Nov, Tuesday
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Is Saudi Arabia Going Nuclear?


AN interesting article entitled Saudi Arabia’s Entry into Nuclear Will Accelerate the Uranium Renaissance on a website called StockInterview.com, claims that the Kingdom is about to announce its entry into the civilian use of nuclear energy for water desalination and electricity production.

Saudi Arabia is planning to spend $40 billion on new desalination plants, and with 30 water desalination plants already producing 70% of the country’s potable water, it is no wonder that our scientists are thinking of alternative ways of running these energy-guzzling desal plants.

Here’s an excerpt from the article: “While a growing number of countries have announced their civilian nuclear energy ambitions over the past twelve months, no other country is likely to have more of a psychological impact on the nuclear energy picture than Saudi Arabia. We believe the Kingdom’s natural gas and water problems will lead them to nuclear, sooner rather than later, probably as early as this year.

“An April 2006 UPI news item confirmed what many have long believed. It won’t be long before Saudi Arabia launches a nuclear project. Kuwaiti researcher Abdullah al-Nufaisi told seminar attendees in Qatar that Saudi Arabia is preparing a nuclear program. He said the government was being urged to launch a nuclear project by Saudi scientists, but had not yet received the blessing by the royal family. Social, not energy, issues could help the Saudi royals embark on a large-scale nuclear program.

“Of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s 24 million subjects, more than 40 percent are under 18 years of age. While still manageable, the country’s infrastructure is not prepared to deal with its explosive population growth. The two biggest problems facing Saudi Arabia are potential water and electricity shortages. True, its super oilfields may also have peaked in production and might move into tertiary recovery, but that is unknown. An Islamic revolution, similar to what Iran suffered in the 1970s is probably foremost in the King’s mind. Civil unrest might come about should his subjects suffer from insufficient electricity and inadequate water supplies. One need only look at the widespread electricity shortages Syria experienced in the 1980s and early 1990s

.“The Saudis need water and electricity to match their population growth. Nuclear energy is likely to be the solution to both problems. Continued dependence upon natural gas may prove a fatal economic and social error for the royal family. Our research forecasts the Saudis should announce a large-scale civilian nuclear energy program in the near future.”

The article goes to say that the Kingdom has been studying the use of nuclear energy in water desalination since 1978 and that a group of Saudi scientists actually presented a paper at a conference in 2002 entitled “Role of Nuclear Energy in Desalination in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

I think nuclear energy should be seriously studied as a much cheaper alternative to fossil fuels to power our desalination plants. Our oil and gas reserves are being depleted, and they certainly won’t last forever.

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The
Christian Science Monitor reports today that US diplomacy is getting, well more diplomatic. It seems that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, faced with the problems of Iraq, Iran, the rise of Hamas, and a cheeky Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who is openly bashing the US, has decided to take a leaf from the playbook of the first Bush president and practice incrementalism with the UN Security Council members.

In a funny aside, the article notes that the abrasive US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, a Dick Cheney protégé, gets to play bad cop while Condi plays good cop.

With the mess that the US created in Iraq, and a world increasingly fed-up with sitting quietly and letting the arrogant Americans do whatever they want, perhaps some in the Bush administration realize that one can sometimes accomplish much more with dialogue, compromise and coalition-building, rather than with the go-it-alone, militaristic approach used so far. Let’s wait and see.

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The New York Times today reports that a July deadline has been set by New York City officials for a contractor to have a wireless network setup and running in Central Park that would dramatically increase the availability of free Internet access to the city’s inhabitants.

The city had problems getting firms interested in bidding to build the network, with Verizon dropping its bid to build a similar network in another New York City park. Instead, it has turned to smaller firms to build the networks that will generate revenue by flashing ads on the screens of users who will have to read them before using the network for free.

How I wish the Saudi government could start such an initiative here in the Kingdom. Perhaps Jeddah Municipality could start such a scheme, installing free, wireless Internet access in shopping malls and the Corniche. This would certainly help to keep Jeddah’s place as the Kingdom’s premier tourist destination.

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FINALLY
, if you’re a 24 fanatic such as me, then you’ll enjoy reading about the joys of watching the series on DVD, where one can watch as many episodes as one desires without having to wait for the weekly episodes on television.

Check out Fox Television’s website for the show here. Did you know that there is a 24 magazine? The spin-offs from this hit series seem to be endless!

If you live in the US, don’t miss the 2-hour season finale of the show on May 22 at 8 p.m. If like me you don’t live there, then you’ll have to wait until season 5 is out on DVD.