Saudi Arabia to build first nuclear reactor in the country

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KHOBAR: Saudi Arabia the world biggest oil producer and exporter planned to build first nuclear reactor of the country to fulfill the energy needs of its population.

The world’s top oil exporter wants to start construction next year on two plants with a total capacity of up to 2.8 gigawatts, three industry sources said, as it follows Gulf neighbour the United Arab Emirates in seeking atomic energy.

This will make it the second country in the Arab world to tap nuclear power as a way to diversify its energy supply for its 32 million population. The UAE’s first plant is expected to come online next year after delays.

While a possible multi-billion-dollar Saudi tender would be smaller than those being considered in India and South Africa, Saudi Arabia’s deep pockets and the lack of any anti-nuclear movement in the country could make it one of the strongest prospects for an industry struggling for contracts following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

“Competition will be fierce,” an industry source said, adding Saudi Arabia was expected to send a Request for Information (RFI) to suppliers in October, marking the official start of the tender process following feasibility studies.

Saudi Arabia will likely provide more detail on the plans at the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, in Vienna next week, the sources said.