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Saudi Arabia will initiate talks with the U.S. administration within a few weeks about the participation of U.S. nuclear energy companies in the Kingdom’s first civilian nuclear energy project. That’s what Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said in an interview with Reuters, adding that reaching an agreement with the U.S. will allow U.S. companies to bid in a tender for the construction of two nuclear reactors by 2018.
The nuclear project, initially announced this September, is an attempt by the Kingdom to diversify away from crude oil as a fuel for energy generation, which would allow it to export more of the commodity. At the time, media reported that the tender for the construction of the first Saudi nuclear power plant would be announced in October, with potential bidders including NPP builders from South Korea, France, and China.
If U.S. nuclear power companies are to take part in a tender for a reactor construction, then the Kingdom would need to sign a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement with Washington. The purpose of the agreement, dubbed 123, is to ensure that Washington’s partner, in this case Saudi Arabia, will not try to use uranium for the development of nuclear weapons.
Until now, Reuters notes, Saudi Arabia has refused to sign agreements that would prevent it from enriching uranium for military purposes. Now, however, the Kingdom has said it has no intention of using uranium for military purposes. It will focus on peaceful applications of nuclear power, tapping its own uranium resources to produce nuclear fuel.
Said Al-Falih, “We have large resources of uranium that we are exploring and we are extremely encouraged. We’re going to harvest our resources, we’re going to localize and we’re going to develop the technology just as we’ve done with oil and gas.”
Riyadh plans to build some 17.6 GW of nuclear power capacity by 2032, which equals around 16 reactors.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.