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Saudi Arabia edges towards nuclear energy with new deals

Move is part of a broader plan to entrench renewable energy as Saudi Arabia tries to diversify its energy mix so that it can export more of its oil, rather than burning it at power and water desalination plants

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The Barakah nuclear power plant in UAE is in its final construction phase
The Barakah nuclear power plant in UAE is in its final construction phase

Saudi Arabia is making good on its promise to add nuclear to its energy mix following a cooperation agreement signed with China this week.

The deal between the two countries aims to support the Kingdom’s nuclear energy programme.

It is part of a broader plan to entrench renewable energy as Saudi Arabia tries to diversify its energy mix so that it can export more of its oil, rather than burning it at power and water desalination plants.

The memorandum of understanding signed between China’s leading state nuclear project developer, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), and the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) builds on existing cooperation between the two sides to explore and assess uranium and thorium resources, according to a report by state news agency SPA quoted by Reuters.

In addition to that programme, Riyadh is in the early stages of feasibility and design studies for its first two commercial nuclear reactors, which will total 2.8 gigawatts.

On Thursday, state-owned The Saudi Technology Development and Investment Co (Taqnia) signed a memorandum of understanding with China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp to develop water desalination projects using gas-cooled nuclear reactors, according to Reuters.

In a separate report, SPA said Hashim Yamani, the president of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), which is responsible for the country’s nuclear plans, met officials in China on Aug. 23-24. Their discussions included cooperation in areas such as pre-feasibility study to build the first two nuclear reactors in the kingdom, and exploration for uranium and thorium.

SPA said KACARE has also held meetings with suppliers of nuclear technology in the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia. It visited France end of July, reported Reuters.

Nuclear energy will help Saudi Arabia to develop water desalination plants, of which it is a leading producer.

In November, the Kingdom announced the winning bid for its first utility-scale solar project as part of its ambitious renewable energy programme.

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