Saudi Arabia prepares for nuclear construction

4 November 2017

Saudi Arabia has sent a request for information (RFI) to international suppliers to build two nuclear power plants, the first step towards a formal tender, Reuters reported on 31 October citing “three sources”.

Saudi Arabia is considering building 17.6GWe of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors, making it a major commercial prospects for reactor suppliers still recovering after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The aim is to reduce the amount of oil consumed domestically to maintain exports. The programme is also motivated by ongoing regional rivalry with Iran.

Industry sources said Saudi Arabia was approaching suppliers from South Korea, China, France, Russia, Japan and the USA for its first two reactors.

France’s EDF has said that it is in talks to sell nuclear reactors to several nations, including Saudi Arabia. Other potential suppliers are Toshiba-owned Westinghouse, Russia’s Rosatom, South Korea’s Kepco and China General Nuclear.

Saudi Arabia is also planning to extract uranium domestically as part of its nuclear power programme, Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, head of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) said on 30 October.  He told the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century in Abu Dhabi that extracting uranium makes sense from an economic point of view. Preliminary studies have estimated Saudi Arabia has around 60,000 tonnes of uranium ore, Maher al Odan, the chief nuclear energy officer of KACARE said at an electricity forum in Riyadh earlier in October.

 Saudi Arabia will soon pass laws for its nuclear programme and will have set up a regulatory framework for October 2018. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also has been invited to conduct an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission during the second quarter of 2018.


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