Saudi Arabia signs civil nuclear cooperation deal with Russia, invites bidding from USA

nuclear KSA mucorales pixabayRiyadh has said it wants to tap its own uranium resources for “self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel”. (Image source: Mucorales/Pixabay)Saudi Arabia and Russia have signed a roadmap deal to implement a civil nuclear cooperation programme that was inked in Moscow in October 2017 when King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud met President Vladimir Putin

A statement from Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom said that the countries aim to cooperate in the field of small and medium-sized nuclear reactors that can be used for both power generation and water desalination. “The parties also plan to cooperate in training personnel for the Saudi nuclear industry and developing the kingdom’s nuclear infrastructure,” Rosatom added.

Additionally, Russia and Saudi Arabia would look to establish a centre for nuclear science and technology in KSA, one based on a Russian-design research reactor, said Rosatom in an announcement on its website.

Evgeny Pakermanov, president of Rusatom Overseas, a subsidiary of Rosatom responsible for promoting Russian nuclear technologies in overseas markets, and Maher Abdullah Alodan, chief atomic energy officer of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), signed the document on behalf of Russia and Saudi Arabia respectively.

Nabi Abdullaev, associate director at Control Risks in London, told Arab News, “With trade between Russia and Iran being below US$2bn (compared to US$40bn with Turkey), Russia is interested in balancing Tehran politically and in exploring economic opportunities with Saudi Arabia.”

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia also invited US firms to take part in developing its civilian nuclear power programme, according to energy minister Khalid al-Falih, adding the kingdom was not interested in diverting nuclear technology to military use.

Reuters has reported that Westinghouse is in talks with other US-based companies to form a consortium for a multi-billion-dollar project to build two reactors and that those firms are pushing Washington to restart talks with Riyadh on a civil nuclear cooperation pact.

Falih said Saudi Arabia was committed to restricting nuclear technology to civilian use.

“Not only are we not interested in any way to diverting nuclear technology to military use, we are very active in non-proliferation by others,” he said at a joint news conference with US energy secretary Rick Perry.

The world’s top oil exporter says it wants nuclear power to diversify its energy mix allowing it to export more crude rather than burning it to generate electricity. It has not yet acquired nuclear power or enrichment technology.

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