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[CAIRO] Saudi Arabia will establish a renewable energy 'city' to meet the country's growing energy needs and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree earlier this month (17 April) ordering the creation of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), based in Riyadh, with offshoots across the country.

KACARE will aim to contribute to sustainable development by promoting peaceful uses of atomic energy in areas such as agriculture, desalination, medicine and mining. Its work will support scientific research and development, training programmes and conferences, and co-ordination of the country's renewable energy centres.  

It will be responsible for drafting a national policy on nuclear energy development, and supervising all commercial uses of nuclear power and handling of radioactive waste.

The city will be supervised by a 13-member council of representatives from relevant ministries.

Internationally, KACARE will represent Saudi Arabia at organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Saudi Arabia's renewable energy plans — like those of other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) — focus on solar and nuclear energy. The council is currently preparing a regional nuclear power and desalination programme in cooperation with the IAEA.

Last month (17 March) the United Arab Emirates announced plans to establish the Gulf Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Institute, in Abu Dhabi. This educational institution will provide civilian nuclear-energy programmes in the Gulf region with a source of local nuclear-energy professionals.

Ned Xoubi, commissioner for nuclear fuel cycle at the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, welcomed KACARE, which he sees as the first step on a "difficult and rocky road ahead that will contribute greatly to the advancement of science and technology in the Arab World".

"I am glad to finally see countries in this region realising the importance of nuclear energy, and how this cutting-edge technology will help in moving our countries into a new era, and elevate the standard of living of our people," he added.

Gamal Akabani, nuclear engineer at the Texas A&M University, United States, said: "The peaceful use of atomic energy is a right that all nations must exercise in order to create a sustainable and renewable environment".

He sees KACARE as Saudi Arabia's opportunity to lead this "massive effort" in the region by example.