Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday laid the foundation stone for a 100 KW research reactor, construction for which is already underway, according to media reports from the country.
Saudi Arabia has indicated that it was on a path to construct 16-17 energy-producing nuclear reactors in the next 20 years or so, an $80 billion initiative that targets 17 GWe of nuclear capacity out of 123 GWe produced in the country. Regional reports say that energy demand in the Middle East is expected to increase sharply in the next decade. Meanwhile, a variety of oil exporters in the region are considering nuclear power to help them maintain an export business in an era of global warming and diminishing oil reserves.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has signed nuclear power cooperation agreements with Russia, South Korea and China, even as local media said the research reactor was a design created by Saudi Arabian experts.
The crown prince, referred to in the media as MBS, has also said the country does not want to pursue building nuclear weapons, but would do so if Iran continued to work in that direction.
The current domestic power target was originally set for 2032, but more recent reports from January have that changed to 2040.
The country has taken two concrete steps in the direction of domestic nuclear power. In July, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency conducted an infrastructure preparedness inspection of the to evald uate the country’s potential construction sites. Saudi Arabia has also issued a tender for the construction of two nuclear reactors. Results of that tender were expected in 2019, but that has been changed recently to 2020.
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