France’s Assystem has been awarded a consultancy contract for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power plant (NPP).

The 18-month contract was awarded by KA Care and covers site characterisation studies such as geological survey and seismic analyses, as well as environmental impact studies, and work on the impact of the project on the kingdom’s electricity grid.

The studies will allow Saudi Arabia to choose the most suitable site on which to build, as well as provide important technical details for the design of the project.

The kingdom’s first nuclear project is planned to be a two-reactor 2.8GW plant. MEED reported in January that the kingdom was assessing two potential locations for the NPP. It has invited consultants to submit proposals for a 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 are at Umm Huwayd and Khor Duweihin. Both can be found 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).

Companies are positioning themselves for the contract to build the first nuclear power plant. In July this year, Russian state nuclear company Rosatom said it has been shortlisted to participate in the tender for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power plant, according to local press reports.

According to a report in the Saudi Gazette, Rosatom will be invited to participate in the upcoming tender by the King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care), the body overseeing the kingdom’s nuclear energy programme.

Earlier in July, South Korea’s energy ministry revealed that state utility provider Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) had made the shortlist for the first Saudi nuclear power tender.

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 mined 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. 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 they are already moving ahead with plans to develop the first two SMART reactors within the next four years. They will have a capacity of about 100MW each.

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.

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