Energy Plan Sees Need for Nuclear Power Plants in Israel

Master plan for Israel's energy infrastructure predicts need to double energy production by 2030, calls for nuclear power to make up 15% of production by 2050.

Zafrir Rinat
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Israel's nuclear research center at SoreqCredit: AP
Zafrir Rinat

Israel should develop nuclear power plants in addition to conventional and renewable energy, according to a proposed master plan for the country’s energy infrastructure.

The basic principles of the plan, along with the forecasts on which it is based, will be presented to the National Planning and Building Council next week. The proposal will then be refined into a detailed plan and submitted for final approval. The plan was prepared by the Tahal Group on behalf of the Finance Ministry’s planning administration.

The plan predicts that Israel will need to double its electricity production capacity by 2030, to almost 30,000 megawatts. Demand for natural gas will more than double by this date, it says, but demand for coal and various petroleum products used in gasoline will remain stable.

Increased energy efficiency can supply 9 to 17 percent of the projected increase in demand for energy, the plan says. It adds that at least 17 percent of energy consumption should come from renewables, as stipulated in a recent cabinet decision.

The document recommends that new power plants be built in place of, or at least alongside, existing plants when possible, to minimize the use of land. For the same reason, it says that fuel pipelines should be built along identical routes insofar as possible.

One of the plan’s main goals is to adapt Israel’s infrastructure to its expected mix of energy sources down the line. It therefore examines several different scenarios, including one based on maximal use of conventional fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), one that prioritizes renewable energy and one in which nuclear energy is added to the mix. The latter scenario considers factors such as environmental impact, land use and safety issues entailed by nuclear power plants.

Ultimately, the authors conclude that about 80 percent of Israel’s energy in 2030 should come from conventional sources, including natural gas. Nuclear plants should produce five percent of Israel’s energy by 2030 and 15 percent by 2050, with the use of conventional sources decreasing correspondingly. The renewable portion should mainly come from hydroelectric power, the plan says.

Nuclear plants do involve safety risks, the plan acknowledges. But they don’t emit pollution, and they produce electricity very efficiently.

In contrast, it says, renewables like solar and wind are of limited value, due to various constraints. Solar and wind plants require massive amounts of land, the plan notes, and they also aren’t very efficient. For instance, solar plants can guarantee only 30 to 60 percent of their maximum power production, while for wind energy, the figure drops to only a few percent. Moreover, Israel doesn’t have enough hours of wind per day, nor are sunshine conditions optimal, the plan says.