Saudi Arabia invite US companies to develop multi-billion dollar nuclear projects

Saudi Arabia has recently invited American businesses to participate in developing its civilian nuclear power program. Khalid al-Falih, the energy minister for Saudi Arabia made the announcement to the media, emphasizing that the nation was not interested in developing any nuclear technology for future military use.

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Industry experts have suggested that Westinghouse is in discussions with other American companies to develop a coalition for the construction of a multi-billion project. The project would include the construction of two reactors and is driving the US to re-establish its conversations with Saudi Arabia on creating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Falih, the energy minister highlighted that Saudi Arabia was serious and committed to restricting nuclear technology to civilian use and diverting any technology from military usage. Falih also emphasized that Saudi Arabia is very active in supporting the non-proliferation of nuclear technology or military use by other nations.

The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), is the government agency assigned to managing the nuclear plans. KACARE recently announced that they were in discussions with both Westinghouse and EDF Energy.

Falih hopes that this project will drive further collaboration between KACARE and American companies. A US spokesperson managing the discussions suggested it was too early to comment on any negotiations. However, they did suggest that both parties share the same outcome of ensuring the project does go ahead.

The US Government generally require a nation to agree and sign a ‘peaceful nuclear cooperation pact’ which is referred to as a 123 agreement. This agreement essentially blocks the development of nuclear energy for potential weapons. Prior discussion with Saudi Arabia has resulted in a refusal to sign an agreement with the agreement also limiting Saudi Arabia from enriching uranium in the future. Saudi Arabia has emphasized that it wants to develop nuclear power and diversify its energy mix. 

The nation does not have its own independent nuclear power or the technology required for enrichment. However, as this enrichment technology involves the same process for manufacturing weapons-grade levels, it has hindered any solid agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is interested in capitalizing on its own uranium resources in the future to ensure the sustainable and self-sufficient development of nuclear power in the region.

With plans to reduce its reliance on the oil industry, the nuclear sector in Saudi Arabia is likely to expand. Riyadh is planning to install up to nearly 18 GW of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of up to 17 nuclear reactors.

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