U.S., Russia in Competition over Saudi Nuclear Reactors


A fierce competition battle for building the first Saudi nuclear power reactors is brewing, as the United States wants in on the lucrative deal, while Russia has already applied an official tender to build the reactors, Asharq al-Awsat reports.

Saudi Arabia, which has no industrial nuclear power plants, has recently increased efforts to forge new regional alliances and pursue nuclear capabilities in part to ward off a perceived threat from Iran.

As Bloomberg reported Tuesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will travel to London to discuss the Saudi nuclear energy project with his Saudi counterparts, primarily Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih.

The U.S. administration is considering permitting Saudi Arabia to enrich and reprocess uranium as part of a deal that would allow Westinghouse Electric Co. and other American companies to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East kingdom.

Some American agreements with other countries have prohibited the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium in exchange for the use of nuclear technology, and that had scuttled negotiations for Saudi projects during the Obama administration.

Two weeks earlier, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced, during a joint news conference with his Saudi counterpart, that the state-owned nuclear company Rosatom had applied for a tender to construct two power plants in Saudi Arabia.

While the details of the nuclear energy cooperation pact were not immediately made public, it was reported joint projects in the future may include the construction of nuclear power reactors, Moscow-backed services in nuclear fuel cycling for nuclear power stations, and research reactor facilities.

Media reports quoted a source from the Saudi King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy as saying that the kingdom received tenders from five international companies from China, France, U.S., South Korea and Russia to carry out engineering and construction works of the two nuclear reactors.

Constructions are anticipated at the beginning of next year, with a joint funding from the Saudi government and the executing company. The two reactors are expected to have a capacity of 2.8 gigawatts.