Saudi Arabia is assessing two potential sites for its first nuclear power plant (NPP) project, for which it is planning to begin the tendering process in 2018.

According to details garnered by MEED projects and corroborated by sources close to the programme, the kingdom has shortlisted two sites for its first atomic energy project, and has invited consultants to submit proposals for the contract to conduct a site characterisation study, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and preliminary safety analysis report (PSRA) to assist with the selection of the preferred site.

The two shortlisted sites are at Umm Huwayd and Khor Duweihin. Both are on the coast near the UAE and Qatari borders.

The two sites were shortlisted following investigations conducted in 2011 and 2012 in accordance with sitting guidance issued by international regulatory agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Initially, 17 potential sites had been identified, which included nine potential sites close to the Red Sea coast, six sites on the Arabian Gulf and two locations further inland.

MEED reported in December that the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-Care), the body overseeing the kingdom’s planned nuclear power programme, had received request for information (RFI) from a number of the world’s largest nuclear power providers including: the US’ Westinghouse, France’s EDF Russia’s Rosatom.

The kingdom’s first nuclear project is planned to be two-reactor 2.8GW plant. Riyadh is planning to develop nuclear energy through three main programmes.

The first two of these will involve building and installing nuclear power plants, with the third targeting mining uranium resources to fuel the plants, sources close to the kingdom’s nuclear programme have told MEED.

In addition to building large scale nuclear power plants at various sites across the country, Riyadh is also planning to develop nuclear power at several locations through SMART (System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor) facilities, which will produce nuclear power from much smaller reactors. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea in November 2016 to develop the technology in the kingdom.

According to a source at KA-Care, Saudi Arabia owns a percentage of the intellectual property (IP) rights for the technology, and is already moving ahead with plans to begin to develop the first two SMART reactors, which will have a capacity of about 100MW each, within the next four years.

The kingdom is also seeking to launch a programme to mine uranium, which will be used to produce fuel for the nuclear plants and also for other uses such as nuclear medicine. Developing the kingdom’s mining sector is a key pillar of the Saudi Vision 2030, which was launched in April 2016.

While progress is being made with plans for the country’s first conventional and SMART reactors, Riyadh has not publicly committed to a target for total nuclear power capacity. Previously, senior government officials have said the kingdom was targeting 17-19GW of nuclear power in the coming two decades.

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