Saudi Arabia to Select Nuclear Power-Plant Site ‘Very Soon’

  • Saudis to announce “concrete plans” for nuclear within a year
  • Neighbor U.A.E. signs reactor deal with Korea Electric Power

Saudi Arabia will soon choose a site for its first nuclear power plant as the world’s biggest crude exporter seeks to diversify its sources of energy.

“We will be selecting sites very soon that we will reserve for our first nuclear energy power plant,” Khalid Al-Falih, the country’s energy minister, said Wednesday at the Oil and Money conference in London. “We hope within the next 12 months that we will be announcing concrete plans.” 

The government wants to make sure all “regulatory steps” are taken beforehand, he said. Wind and solar power will also play a “very significant part” of Saudi Arabia’s energy mix, Al-Falih said. 

Saudi Arabia, which laid out its ambitions for diversifying energy supplies in 2012, is trying to reduce the economy’s dependence on hydrocarbons as low oil prices strain the budget. The country raised $17.5 billion this week in the biggest bond sale from an emerging-market nation as it seeks to bridge a deficit that widened last year to about 15 percent of gross domestic product.

U.A.E. Reactors

The kingdom has a target of generating 6 to 7 gigawatts of electricity from nuclear power by 2032, rising to 17 gigawatts by 2040, Maher al-Odan, an adviser to the government on renewables planning, said in April of last year. Abu Dhabi in the neighboring United Arab Emirates is building the Gulf Arab region’s first nuclear power plant. The reactor, one of four that the emirate is planning, is scheduled for completion in 2017. 

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. and Korea Electric Power Corp. signed a joint-venture agreement on Thursday for a long-term partnership in the U.A.E.’s nuclear program, ENEC said in an e-mailed statement. Korea Electric is taking an 18 percent stake in a venture representing the commercial interests of the U.A.E.’s Barakah nuclear-plant project, with ENEC holding the rest, according to the statement. 

Construction of the U.A.E.’s four reactors is more than 71 percent complete, and all the plants are to be finished in 2020, ENEC said. The U.A.E., like Saudi Arabia, a fellow member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, is trying to reduce its reliance on oil exports. It expects to produce nearly a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy by 2020, according to ENEC’s website.

— With assistance by Rakteem Katakey

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