Saudi Arabia and China are to cooperate on nuclear energy projects following discussions on ways to support the Saudi kingdom’s nuclear energy programme during the official visit of Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli to Saudi Arabia, state news agency SPA reported. Saudi Arabia launched a renewable energy programme earlier this year and is in the early stages of feasibility and design studies for its first two commercial nuclear reactors, which will total 2,400MWe. China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) on 24 August signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) to promote further existing cooperation between the two sides to explore and assess uranium and thorium resources, SPA said. The MOU builds on existing cooperation in this field. Under an MOU signed in March, CNNC said it will explore nine potential areas for uranium resources in Saudi Arabia within the next two years.

Another MOU was signed between the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Co (Taqnia) and China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp to develop water desalination projects using gas-cooled nuclear reactors. Saudi Arabia also set up a joint investment fund with China and signed 11 deals worth $20bn billion

In a separate report, SPA said Hashim Yamani, the president of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), which is responsible for the country’s nuclear plans, met officials in China on August 23-24 to discuss a pre-feasibility study to build the first two nuclear reactors in the kingdom, and exploration for uranium and thorium. KACARE has also held meetings with suppliers of nuclear technology in the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia and sent a delegation to France at the end of July. The kingdom and China signed in 2012 a MOU to cooperate on the civilian use of nuclear energy. Similar deals had already been signed with France, Argentina, Russia, the USA and other states.