Saudi Arabia says it will build first nuclear power plant

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)
The file photo shows Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman addressing an IAEA General Assembly meeting in Vienna.

Saudi Arabia has unveiled a plan to expand the use of nuclear technology that would also include the construction of a first nuclear power plant in the kingdom.

Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman said in an address to the annual General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Monday that the building operations for the country’s first nuclear plant, known as the National Atomic Energy Project, will be carried out in close cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

He said that Saudi Arabia is also planning to expand the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in other fields, including for treatment of cancer patients.

The announcement from Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, comes a month after media reports suggested that Riyadh is considering a Chinese bid to build a nuclear power plant in the kingdom.

The Wall Street Journal reported in late August that Saudi Arabia’s consideration of the bid by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) had come after the United States refused to support the Arab country’s plans for building a nuclear power plant.

The CNNC has proposed building a nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia’s border regions with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Experts say China’s involvement in the Saudi nuclear projects will enable the kingdom to have a freer hand on issues such as uranium enrichment or mining as opposed to contracts with Western suppliers which ban customers from enriching uranium or mining their own uranium deposits.

In his address to the IAEA, Abdulaziz said that Saudi Arabia’s plans for expanding the use of nuclear technology will comply with the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).


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