According to Wikipedia there are no Arab countries that have a functioning nuclear energy program. (Indeed, Pakistan and Iran are the only Muslim countries to do so, and neither of these are Arab.) In contrast, many other countries have nuclear power plants. Why would Arab countries eschew nuclear power? Is there a particular policy or motivation that would tend to keep Arab countries from doing this? Or is it merely a sociological, economic, or geographical consideration?

My point of view: those countries have large populations and they need energy, especially in some countries they are struggling with electricity.

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    You appear to have multiple questions here, you might want to clarify. Why don't "Arab countries" (other than Iran?) have nuclear reactors? Why aren't (Who?, the 9 with nuclear weapons?) afraid of the 24 developing nuclear weapons? Why is it taking until 2020 for the 24 other countries to get (nuclear weapons?)? You might want to narrow this to a single country (otherwise you will have 24 equally correct answers to why 2020 will be the year they get the bomb) . Or limit it to one of your other questions.
    – user1873
    Aug 26, 2013 at 14:23
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    Just a guess, but I assume cheap oil in the region is part of the equation.
    – user1530
    Aug 26, 2013 at 14:35
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    @Moudiz for the most part, they have oil. Their money comes from oil. No need to create heavy industries when you have the oil wealth. As for Iran, they've traditionally been an advanced nation in terms of science and technology. But it's also not an Arab country. Are you specifically asking about Iran, or are you specifically asking about Arab nations?
    – user1530
    Aug 26, 2013 at 16:32
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    Note that some Arab countries seem to actually have plans to build nuclear plants - with the help of France and possibly Iran: world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/… Oct 25, 2018 at 11:24
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    Because Israel bombs the suspected plants to smithereens when they learn of them?
    – Stian
    Feb 1, 2019 at 8:27

8 Answers 8


I would argue that the reason is less political and more about geography and economics.

As this study shows, access to low-cost fossil fuels is in fact cheaper than nuclear. This page shows the cost of fossil fuels to be reasonable, whereas nuclear has a high capitalization that must be amortized in some fashion.

Saudi Arabia, for example, has the world's largest oil reserves, and thus can extract oil far more cheaply than they could invest in such a large scale infrastructure project like a nuclear power plant. Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Libya, and others likewise lack an economic incentive to do this.

Iran's nuclear program is more contentious. While Iran claims it is simply diversifying its energy portfolio, many in the West view it strictly as a ploy to cover a nuclear weapons program - not as an energy source.

Israel, in contrast (a non-Arab state), has no oil reserves of its own, and a precarious geopolitical situation that makes it prudent not to rely on its neighbors, and sufficient wealth - but even in these circumstances, has found it cheaper to emphasize solar power and conservation.

And finally, some countries, like Germany and Japan, in light of the externalities imposed by the cleanup of spent nuclear waste, have seen fit to actually dismantle their programs. While the price may have been affordable, the total cost, both environmental and political, was deemed otherwise.

  • Note: I should say that personal, I like nuclear, and lived within a few miles of a nuclear reactor for nearly 8 years. That said, there are politics around it which bring its own costs, some of which are non-monetary. Aug 26, 2013 at 16:04
  • Interestingly, Israel recently discovered a very large natural gas deposit off its coast: upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2013/08/22/…
    – Publius
    Aug 26, 2013 at 18:50
  • its politcal thing @AffableGeek , there are many indicator for that, saudi arabia in particular is ruled by a cult or political group that exists arround 60 years and never changed, because if one day for a political reason saudi arabia and the arabian gulf countries decided to stop the fuel to the europ countries it will disastreous. thats why in my point view USA try to keep arabian countries so weak to take advantage of the fuel the same in africa, those coutnrie are so poor and weak however foreign countries are taking advatanges ot it is resources. African countries remain strugeling
    – Moudiz
    Aug 27, 2013 at 6:56

They tend to either be poor, in which case they can't afford nuclear power; or are rich in fossil fuels, so they get their power that way. Another consideration is that the U.S. and the West are determined to keep nuclear technology as exclusive as possible. A peaceful program in a less developed country is assumed to mean "dirty bombs" and easy transition to having nuclear weapons, which MUST be kept to the countries that are already the most powerful because it is much more acceptable to invade weaker ones (and the West is particularly fond of invading Arab nations, guess why).

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    A peaceful program in a less developed country is assumed to mean "dirty bombs" - [citation needed]. "Another consideration is that the U.S. and the West are determined to keep nuclear technology as exclusive as possible" - [citation needed].
    – user4012
    Jan 6, 2014 at 22:24
  • @user4012 Witness the economic sanctions levied against Iran for their nuclear power program.
    – nick012000
    Jun 21, 2019 at 10:57
  • There is a difference between energy technology and weapon's technology. While the West (and the other signatories to the nonproliferation treaty) try to indeed prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology, they often work with countries establishing nuclear energy capabilities. Even in the "evil" arab regions, see for instance,world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/others/… Jun 21, 2019 at 17:44
  • "In December 2006 the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Oman – announced that the Council was commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. France agreed to work with them on this, and Iran pledged assistance with nuclear technology." Jun 21, 2019 at 17:44
  • And this article rather cites economic reasons and political reasons with respect to energy choice after the Japanese tsunami for why Russia and China lead the nuclear reactor export: economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/08/07/… Jun 21, 2019 at 17:49

Option one; you sell oil for a price you cannot predict and use the income to build a nuclear power station for a cost you cannot predict. You then have to buy in nuclear fuel etc using income from the oil you are selling for a price you cannot predict.

Option two; you use the oil (and gas) in a power station that is cheap to build at a known cost. (It is also likely that the any gas you are able to use, would have been expensive to liquidly to allow it to be exported.)

Solar power can then be considered at a low risk to reduce the amount of oil used in the oil powered power station so allowing more oil to be exported.

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    Not every Arab country has important oil prodcution.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 31, 2019 at 16:16

Ian Ringrose's answer explains that it is cheaper and less-risky for an oil-rich Arab state to build oil- or natural gas-fueled power plants than nuclear power plants.

In addition to the two non-Arab muslim countries (Iran and Pakistan) mentioned in the original post, two others (Turkey and Bangladesh) are currently building Russian-designed nuclear power plants. The Russian deals involve borrowing money to pay high capital costs. For example, the Bangladesh deal includes borrowing eleven billion dollars with a variable interest rate that is 1.75 percentage points higher than LIBOR, and a 28-38 year repayment period.

The Koran condemns usury, as opposed to trade. Arab countries therefore avoid interest-bearing loans. This makes it very difficult for oil-poor Arab countries to finance nuclear power plants.


Mainly due to US disapproval.

The majority of the Arab countries are situated around Israel. Trying to acquire a nuclear facility is an anxiety trigger to Israel and in turn to the USA.

A few weeks ago Blinken visited Saudi Arabia with a proposal to increase oil production along with a proposal to normalize relations with Israel. Saudis told him that they want a nuclear reactor just like Iran. Brinken seemed to go back to the USA without a peep as if he got an anxiety attack.

Historically, Iraq, Libya, and Syria had nuclear programs. The USA and Israel, in various ways, thwarted their efforts.

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    "The USA and Israel, in various ways, thwarted their efforts." In this context should be mentioned the Israeli Air Force air raid on a suspected nuclear reactor in the province of Deir ez-Zor in Syria and the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.
    – convert
    Jul 8, 2023 at 16:33

As mentioned in the answer by user366312 Iraq, Libya, and Syria had nuclear programs. But the reactors in Iraq and Syria were bombed by Israel. 1981 Osirak reactor was destroyed in Iraq and it was not the first attack on the Iraqi nuclear program. 2007 a reactor in Syria was bombed. This bombing could be the reason why Libya gave up its nuclear program. 2007 France and Libya close nuclear reactor deal.

Also, Russia builds some nuclear power plants in Arab countries like Egypt and Morocco.


There are 3 kinds of Arabic countries:

  1. The Arabic countries that are linked directly with the USA, and have a lot of petrol so all their power is in that field. They have lot of money and have no nuclear energy because their worries are related to their "own economy" and they just buy everything from the USA (example : Gulf countries) .

  2. Those countries that are led by very corrupt people who are helped directly by the USA or France. Those who control secrets of those countries and never let any person inform the population of those countries of what is really happening. They work with corrupt leaders (president, army) who worry only about their own businesses and use of public money for their own benefit. (example : Algeria)

  3. Those countries that tried to have nuclear power, but someone else stopped them, (for example corrupt president). (example : Algeria)

You need to know how Arab countries work. They have a very complicated system and people are not informed about it. Lot of presidents, some try to do good but then, they are killed, others just are very corruption.

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    So, If I am understanding you right, You're saying that Arab countries don't use nuclear energy because they're corrupt? Jan 3, 2014 at 19:45
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    Why might corrupt leaders be against Nuclear energy? Jan 3, 2014 at 19:45
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    @SamIam - (assuming that's true in the first place) possibly, because nuclear is a big investment . That tends to interfere with lining one's own pockets. If I was a corrupt ruler I'd avoid big longterm investments that don't start paying off soon.
    – user4012
    Jan 6, 2014 at 22:26
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    @user4012 Oh I'd find such a program perfect. You can steal lots of money that is supposedly intended for the power plant that is supposedly being completed in 25 years. And after 20 years you leave the country or have it being blown up by some bad opposition rebels, so it doesn't get known that it was only half done for lack of those funds you did your birthday celebrations with. Oct 25, 2018 at 11:22

As others have explained, generating electric power through nuclear energy made no practical economic sense to Arab countries that are rich in oil and gas deposits. Oil and Gas electric plants are much, much cheaper than Nuclear power plants that are more expensive to build and operate. Moreover, nuclear power plants come with the additional baggage of a lot of international scrutiny.

However, with alarms being raised over the probable depletion of oil and gas in the next few centuries, the momentum that "green energy" has gained in last few decades, and the major concern of the Arab countries to provide drinking water to their citizens through electric-powered desalination plants the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been exploring how they could utilise nuclear energy:

In December 2006 the six member states of the GCC – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and Oman – announced that the Council was commissioning a study on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. France agreed to work with them on this, and Iran pledged assistance with nuclear technology. In February 2007 the six states agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to cooperate on a feasibility study for a regional nuclear power and desalination programme. Saudi Arabia was leading the investigation. Regional electricity grid integration is progressing.

This ultimately culminated in the UAE receiving IAEA and US approval to establish a nuclear power plant in Barakah, UAE, which is already operational:

  • The UAE has embarked upon a nuclear power programme in close consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and with huge public support.
  • It accepted a $20 billion bid from a South Korean consortium to build four commercial nuclear power reactors, total 5.6 GWe, by 2020 at Barakah.
  • Unit 1 of the country's first nuclear power plant was connected to the grid in August 2020, followed by unit 2 in September 2021 and unit 3 in October 2022.

The UAE expects that the four 1400 MWe nuclear units at Barakah will produce 25% of its electricity at a quarter the cost of that from gas. It plans to export electricity to Gulf neighbours via the regional power grid.

The other GCC countries are in various stages of preparation and getting approval to establish their own nuclear power plants.


  1. Nuclear Power in the United Arab Emirates
  2. U.S.-UAE Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation (123 Agreement)

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