Saudi Arabia is hoping to prequalify firms from two or three countries by April or May for the first nuclear reactors it wants to build, Abdul Malik al-Sabery, a consultant at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy told reporters on the sidelines of World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia plans to build 17.6GWe of nuclear capacity by 2032. Sabery said Saudi Arabia was “in the evaluation process” for RFI (request for information) and would hold discussions with suppliers in February.

A joint venture between the Saudi government and the winning developers could be signed in 2019, after the shortlisting by the end of 2018. Commissioning of the first two-unit plant, which will have a capacity of up to 3.2GWe, is expected in 2027. Sabery said Riyadh was currently evaluating requirements from five countries; China, Russia, South Korea, France and the USA. Russian and South Korean companies have said they intend to bid. US company Westinghouse (recently sold by Toshiba to Canada’s Brookfield) is in discussion with other US companies to form a bidding consortium.  Electricite de France (EDF) also plans to make an offer.

Sabery said the annual electricity growth was more than 7% in Saudi Arabia “due to growing population and industries”. He added: ''With nuclear energy, we are going to rely less on hydrocarbons for electricity generation, and the nuclear energy programme will also give a boost to industrial sector growth and diversification of the economy.'' Saudi Arabia is also looking at wind and solar plants, targeting 9.5GWe of wind and solar energy by 2023. Geothermal and waste to energy are the other sources of energy which the Kingdom is targeting in future, he said.