Iraq in talks with three countries over ambitious nuclear plans

Iraq is holding talks with Russia, France and the US to discuss the prospect of building three civilian nuclear reactors.

Kamal Hussein Latif, head of the Iraqi Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority, told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) on Thursday that two visits had already been made to the Russian embassy in Baghdad.

He said the meetings with Russian officials had resulted in a memorandum of understanding on obtaining Rosatom’s participation in planning the scheme, and that further meetings were to be held with French diplomats.

He said: "Our French counterparts are eager to work with Iraq in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and we are waiting to obtain full approval before releasing more details on this cooperation. We are looking for common ground with our partners in this preliminary phase that precedes the bidding stage."

A meeting with US officials had been requested, but had not yet taken place.

Latif also hinted at the existence of a plan, yet to be presented to the government, that details the costs of building the reactors. If approved, its details will be made public, Latif said.

Saaran Al-Aajibi, a member of the Parliamentary Security and Defence Committee, said he was hopeful Iraq would build reactors similar to those of its neighbours, although the infrastructure required would put a strain on the government’s finances.

In the region, only Iran and the UAE have nuclear reactors in operation, although work is underway on the Akkuyu plant in Turkey, with another two in the pipeline. Saudi Arabia hopes to generate 17GW from nuclear sources by 2040 and Egypt is working with Rosatom on a $25bn scheme to build four advanced third generation reactors at Dabaa (see further reading).

Iraq has suffered chronic electricity shortfalls since the 2003 Gulf War. In 2019 it was estimated that installed capacity was able to generate 18GW of power, compared with a peak summer demand of  24GW. Electricity shortages are seen by many as an important underlying cause of political instability in the country.

Image: Work under way on the UAE’s Barakah nuclear plant, the first in the Arab world (Wikiemirati/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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