By Mahmoud Habboush
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, plans to award contracts in December for the construction of its first nuclear-power plants, according to a government official involved with the project.
The kingdom has received requests from five bidders from China, France, the U.S., South Korea and Russia to perform the engineering, procurement and construction work on two nuclear reactors, Abdulmalik al Sabery, a consultant in the business development department at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, said in an interview in Abu Dhabi. He declined to identify the bidders.
“By April we will sign a project development agreement with two to three selected vendors,” al Sabery said Monday. “We are going to have only one winner that will be building the two reactors.” The government expects construction to start next year and is “shooting for” commissioning the facilities in 2027, he said.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its economy and lessen its dependence on oil sales for most of its official revenue. As part of these reforms, the country wants to meet a larger share of its energy needs from renewables such as solar power and from nuclear plants. Its neighbor the United Arab Emirates plans this year to complete the first of four reactors.
Each of the Saudi nuclear reactors will be able to produce as much as 2.2 gigawatts to 3.3 gigawatts, depending on the technology they use, al Sabery said. They will be combined in a single power station, he said.
Financing will be provided by the vendor and the Saudi government, which will contribute the bigger share of funds. Saudi Arabia is currently setting up a nuclear regulator, al Sabery said.