Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir announced that Riyadh plans to build a string of nuclear energy power plants so that the kingdom can generate additional revenue by exporting its massive oil reserves instead of burning them for electricity.
At last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, Al-Jubeir remarked that the country considers the adoption of nuclear energy to power its electrical grid a means to diversify the country’s economy away from its reliance on the global oil market. The Saudi top diplomat urged the US to allow Riyadh the same rights as other nuclear nations to process nuclear fuel on its own soil, warning that the kingdom is currently in talks with 10 other nations and will have options should Washington refuse.
“We have not made a decision yet with regards to which path we will take and which country we will be focusing on,” Al-Jubeir told CNBC on February 18.
Saudi Arabia is set to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20-25 years, and plans to spend over $80 billion to make it happen. The kingdom is weighing possible contractors for the first plant that will incorporate two nuclear reactors. According to Yonhap, South Korea will submit a proposal to assist in the construction of the first plant.
“Saudi Arabia consumes over one-quarter of its oil production, and while energy demand is projected to increase substantially, oil production is not, and by 2030 a large proportion will be consumed domestically, much of it for electricity generation,” the World Nuclear Association notes on its website.
Riyadh has invited US companies to participate in the program but acceptance from Washington requires the signing of a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact that separates civil and military nuclear facilities while assuring that nuclear fuel production cannot be used to make nuclear bombs.
Also at the Munich Security Conference, Saudi Arabian diplomats warned regional rival Iran that the Islamic Republic will pay a price for what Riyadh regards as its “aggressive behavior.”
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