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Russia’s Rosatom to bid in 16 Saudi nuclear plants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak (R) and his Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih (file photo)

Russia's state-owned nuclear technology giant Rosatom is ready to construct as many as 16 modern nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, if the oil-rich kingdom ever decides to hold a tender, Russia’s top energy official says.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak made the announcement on Thursday, after meeting Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh to discuss global oil prices.

“The nuclear industry is an important part of our cooperation,” Russia’s RT TV network quoted Novak as saying at an intergovernmental commission meeting on Thursday. “Rosatom could take part in the creation of a nuclear cluster in Saudi Arabia, including the construction of 16 modern nuclear reactors.”

Russia and Saudi Arabia have recently signed an agreement on energy and climate. They have also inked a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in the energy sector.

According to Novak, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) were considering investing in more than 20 projects worth over $10 billion. The two sides had already spent more than $1 billion on nine joint projects.

Earlier this week, sources told Reuters that Riyadh had already taken the first step towards a formal tender by sending out a request for information (RFI) to reactor vendors in Russia, South Korea, China, France, Japan and the US in order to build two nuclear power plants.

“Rosatom has expressed its interest and sent its initial proposals to the Saudi nuclear authorities. We are looking forward to the tender and are ready to take part in such a great project,” a Rosatom spokesman told Reuters on Thursday.

The company said in September last year that it was “ready to build 16 nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia” with an estimated cost of around $100 billion, under a 2015 intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the country.

The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), the Saudi agency drawing up the nuclear plans, has declared on its website that the kingdom is considering building 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032.

This means that the country would need at least 17 standard nuclear reactors.

KACARE head Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani said Monday that Saudi Arabia plans to mine its own uranium as part of efforts to bolster its nuclear program and attain “self-sufficiency” in the production of “nuclear fuel.”

The kingdom has approximately 60,000 tons of uranium ore, according to the latest figures provided by Maher al-Odan, the chief atomic energy officer of KACARE.

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