Saudi Arabia makes progress with small nuclear reactor plans

31 October 2018
Kingdom is seeking to develop compact reactors in tandem with programme to build large-scale conventional nuclear power plants

Saudi Arabia and South Korea have made progress with plans to codevelop system-integrated modular advanced reactor technology (Smart) nuclear power plants in the kingdom.

According to Byung-Wook Jo, South Korean ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the pre-project engineering work for two Smart units will be completed in November.

South Korea and Saudi Arabia have already invested more than SR487m ($129.8m) in plans for Smart nuclear reactors across the kingdom. Riyadh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea in November 2016 to develop the technology. The Smart reactors are expected to have a capacity of about 100MW each.

The Smart nuclear programme is part of a three-pronged plans to develop atomic energy in the kingdom.

The majority of nuclear power capacity will be developed through the development of conventional large-scale nuclear facilities, the first of which will be a two-reactor 2.8GW plant. The King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (KA-Care) announced in August that it had awarded a contract to France’s Assystem to carry out site characterisation studies, including geological surveys and environmental impact studies for the first planned project.

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.

MEED had reported in January that MEED reported in January that the kingdom was assessing two potential locations for the NPP. 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.

In addition to developing nuclear power capacity through conventional and Smart reactors, the third pillar of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear energy programme will involve mining uranium resources to fuel the plants, sources close to the kingdom’s nuclear programme have told MEED.

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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