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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Israel utility IEC considers building nuclear, solar plants instead of 2 GW clean coal facility

[In addition to the famous Dimona facility, Israel still has a nuclear engineering department at Ben Gurion University.]


26 January 2010 - Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) is considering building a 1200 MW nuclear power plant and a 1000 MW solar array, instead of building a coal fired power plant due to come online in 2020.

Globes reported that IEC's current development plan for 2020 includes the construction of an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant, in addition to the coal fired power plant planned for construction near Ashkelon which is due to come onine in 2015.

However, IEC said that the company was considering building a 1200 MW nuclear power plant and a 1000 MW solar energy plant instead.

IEC deputy CEO and VP production and transport Moshe Bachar said that the transition to environmentally friendly energy sources was essential, and that higher electricity rates were inevitable. "In the coming years, we will have to create a mix of fuels, while conserving the environment and saving energy sources, despite the expected rise in demand for electricity. The era of cheap electricity is over," he said.

Bachar said that Israel's future energy economy would be based on environmentally friendly energy sources: nuclear power, natural gas, and renewable energy. The company will only use coal fired power plants as back-up and to secure electricity supplies.

The idea for building a nuclear power plant again came up for discussion at government ministries, after Jordan announced plans to build a nuclear power plant near Aqaba.

If IEC decides to build a nuclear power plant and a solar energy plant, it will face technical hurdles, regulatory difficulties, and major opposition from private power producers.

Firstly, a nuclear power plant would require Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Secondly, IEC's massive entry into the renewable energy industry contradicts the policy of the Public Utilities Authority (Electricity) and the Ministry of Finance, which ban this out of concern for unfair competition against private power producers, reported Globes.

Environmental organizations would also probably oppose a nuclear power plant on the grounds of risk of radiation in the event of a breakdown, sabotage, or a strong earthquake. Finally, a 1000 MW solar power array, using current technology, would need 5000 acres of land and cost $4 bn to build.


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