Saudi Arabia plans to extract its own uranium as part of plans for a self sufficient nuclear power programme, an official has said.
Reuters cited Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, the head of the agency behind the kingdom’s nuclear plans King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, as saying the country would soon pass laws for its nuclear programme and setup a nuclear regulator by the third quarter of next year.
The kingdom will also award a construction contract for the country’s first two nuclear reactors, with an expected capacity of up to 2.8GW, by the end of 2018 and is reaching out to vendors in South Korea, China, France, Russia, Japan and the US, according to the newswire.
“Regarding the production of uranium in the kingdom, this is a programme which is our first step toward self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel,” Yamani told a conference organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. “We utilise the uranium ore that has been proven to be economically efficient.”
Nuclear reactors require uranium enriched to 5 per cent purity but the same technology can be used to enrich it to weapons-grade levels – as was the concern with rival Iran’s programme prior to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Saudi Arabia is planning to build up to 17.6GW of nuclear power generation capacity by 2031.
So far, the UAE has been the only other Gulf Cooperation Council State to establish a nuclear programme.
Its first nuclear reactor will be operational next year after the launch was pushed back from 2017.
The emirates’ Barakah plant will eventually have a capacity of 5.6GW with four 1.4GW reactors.