Saudi Arabia to draw out uranium for ‘self-sufficient’ nuclear program

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia prepares to draw out uranium domestically as part of its nuclear power program and sees this as an action towards “self-sufficiency” in producing atomic fuel, a senior authorities said on Monday.

The Kingdom Tower stands in the night in Riyadh, in a file photo. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

Extracting its own uranium likewise makes sense from an economic point of view, stated Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, head of the Saudi government agency charged with the nuclear plans, the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Eco-friendly Energy (KACARE).

In a speech at a global nuclear power conference in Abu Dhabi, he did not define whether Saudi Arabia looks for to also improve and recycle uranium– steps in the fuel cycle which are especially sensitive as they can open up the possibility of military uses of the product.

The world’s top oil exporter says it wishes to tap atomic power for tranquil functions only in order to diversify its energy supply and will award a building agreement for its very first 2 atomic power plants by the end of 2018.

“Relating to the production of uranium in the kingdom, this is a program which is our very first action towards self-sufficiency in producing nuclear fuel,” Yamani informed a conference organized by the International Atomic Energy Firm (IAEA). “We use the uranium ore that has actually been proven to be financially effective.”

Atomic reactors require uranium enriched to around 5 percent pureness however the very same technology in this procedure can also be used to enhance the heavy metal to greater, weapons-grade levels.

This concern has been at the heart of Western and regional concerns about the nuclear work of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s enemy, and led to the 2015 handle which Iran concurred to freeze the program for 15 years for sanctions relief.

On Monday, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Iran was abiding by the nuclear deal signed with world powers and which U.S. President Donald Trump has called into question.

Under the arrangement, Iran can enrich uranium to 3.67 percent purity, around the typical level required for business power-generation.


Saudi Arabia would be the second nation in the Gulf Arab area to tap nuclear after the United Arab Emirates, which is set to start up its very first, South Korean-built reactor in 2018. The UAE has actually committed not to improve uranium itself and not to reprocess spent fuel.

Industry sources have actually told Reuters Saudi Arabia is reaching out to potential suppliers from South Korea, China, France, Russia, Japan and the United States for its first two reactors.

The plans have actually received additional momentum as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, an ambitious economic reform program introduced last year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Yamani stated Saudi Arabia will soon pass laws for its nuclear program and will have set up all the policies for its nuclear regulator by the 3rd quarter of 2018.

“The IAEA also has actually been requested to perform an integrated review of our nuclear facilities throughout the 2nd quarter of 2018,” he stated, which will enable the agency to examine efforts to prepare Saudi facilities “to present nuclear power for serene functions.”

Saudi Arabia is considering constructing some 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors, making it among the strongest prospects for an industry having a hard time after the 2011 nuclear catastrophe in Japan.

Initial research studies have actually approximated Saudi Arabia has around 60,000 tonnes of uranium ore, Maher al Odan, the chief atomic energy officer of KACARE stated at an electrical energy online forum in Riyadh on Oct 11.

Additional reporting by Reem Shamseddine in Khobar, Saudi Arabia; Modifying by Janet Lawrence