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IAEA delegation assesses Saudi Arabia’s nuclear infrastructure

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has completed a mission to Saudi Arabia to assess its development of the infrastructure required for a nuclear power programme as the Kingdom prepares to invite bids for the construction of its first nuclear power plant

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The IAEA mission team with Saudi representatives (Image: KA-CARE)
The IAEA mission team with Saudi representatives (Image: KA-CARE)

A delegation from the IAEA visited the headquarters of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) between 15 and 24 July. The mission was conducted at the request of the Saudi government.

During its visit, the team was received by KA-CARE President Khalid bin Saleh Al-Sultan, as well as the heads of the organisation's various departments and representatives from other concerned authorities. The delegation was briefed on the efforts of Saudi Arabia to prepare the necessary infrastructure for the introduction of nuclear energy.

Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions are designed to assist IAEA member states in assessing the status of national infrastructure needed for the introduction of nuclear power. They are based on the IAEA Milestones Approach, with its 19 Infrastructure Issues, three Phases and three Milestones. Prior to the mission, Saudi Arabia submitted a self-evaluation report covering all infrastructure issues and submitted this and supporting documents to the IAEA.

"The INIR mission was conducted in a cooperative and open atmosphere," said team leader Jose Bastos, who is technical lead of the IAEA Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. "Saudi Arabia is well placed to finalise its plans for construction of its first nuclear power plant."

The IAEA team said that Saudi Arabia has made "significant progress" in the development of its nuclear power infrastructure. It noted the country has established a legislative framework and is carrying out comprehensive studies to support the next steps of the programme.

The team made recommendations and suggestions, including: coordination and development of outstanding nuclear-related policies and strategies; finalisation of the readiness of key organisations; and, completion of studies to prepare for future stages of the nuclear power programme.

The team presented a preliminary report on the conclusion of the mission. The IAEA publishes each INIR mission report on its website 90 days after its delivery to the member state, unless the state requests that the IAEA not do so.

In July last year, the Saudi government announced that it intends to add nuclear power to the country's energy mix with the objective of diversifying and boosting its production capacity. KA-CARE announced last year that it was soliciting proposals for 2.9 GWe nuclear capacity from South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Saudi Arabia earlier announced plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years. A 2010 royal decree identified nuclear power as essential to help meet growing energy demand for both electricity generation and water desalination while reducing reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources.

"The vision of Saudi Arabia 2030 considers nuclear energy as an important source to support stability and sustainable growth," Al Sultan said. "Deployment of nuclear energy aims for peaceful purposes, in a safe, secure and sustainable manner consistent with highest standards and best practices. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has requested the INIR mission to support this goal. It was a valuable tool to pinpoint areas of improvement and ensure that the required infrastructures are in place before signing the contract for building the first nuclear power plant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

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