February 18, 2009 / 4:47 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Kuwait eyes nuclear power with French help - paper

(Updates with Total’s website, paragraph 8)

KUWAIT, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Kuwait is considering developing nuclear power with the help of a French firm to meet demand for electricity and water desalination, the country’s ruler said in remarks published on Wednesday.

“A French firm is studying the issue,” daily al-Watan quoted Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as saying, adding that the oil-rich Gulf Arab state would only put nuclear power to civilian use and according to international laws.

Nuclear power would “save a lot of wasted fuel in electricity and water desalination plants”, he said, giving no further details. The emir did not specifically refer to any French firm in his published remarks.

The comments came a week after a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Kuwait and a month after the United States signed a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Iran, just across the Gulf from Kuwait, is facing international pressure to halt a nuclear enrichment programme it says is purely civilian but which the United States believes is aimed at developing an atom bomb.

Power demand has prompted the six U.S.-allied Arab members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to consider nuclear energy.

The UAE has also signed a nuclear cooperation deals with France, and pledged to work with the U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA.

In January 2008, France’s Total (TOTF.PA), Suez LYOE.PA, and Areva CEPFi.PA said they would develop two nuclear reactors in the UAE with a possible start date of 2016. But according to Total’s website no proposal has been made yet and no agenda approved by the UAE government. Kuwait, an OPEC oil exporter, is facing rising energy demands and has experienced power cuts in the past, especially during the hot summer months when air conditioning use rises.

It has said it is also building facilities to import liquefied natural gas from Qatar beginning in 2009 and is also considering importing gas from Iraq and Iran.

Kuwait has six power stations that also desalinate water. (Reporting by Eman Goma)

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