Saudi nuclear projects can meet desalination needs and generate jobs

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The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC).

RIYADH — The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) published a new commentary that explores the Saudi nuclear energy project. The paper said that establishing a nuclear sector in Saudi Arabia would lead to lower unemployment, increase average wages, and help the Kingdom in meeting its desalination needs.

“Nuclear desalination makes sense for Saudi Arabia, as it falls far below the water poverty line, as defined by the UN, at 2,000 cubic meters per capita,” according to the KAPSARC paper. The paper explains that there are five potential vendors for Saudi Arabia’s first two nuclear reactors and affirms that the choice will determine the importance of maintaining a strong diplomatic bilateral relationship with the vendor country over the coming decades.

KAPSARC found that there are four challenges facing the Kingdom in establishing a nuclear sector energy program, which will start with two reactors totaling 3-4 GW. The challenges are: Solid institutional infrastructure, a powerful legal and regulatory system, a strong industrial base, and advanced human capital.

The paper showed that the nuclear energy program seeks to diversify the country’s economy, create an attractive investment environment, generate new job opportunities and develop Saudi Arabia’s human capital. Additionally, it targets localization of 25% to 30%.

The paper noted that Saudi Arabia plans to extract uranium domestically as part of its nuclear power program and sees this as a step toward being self-sufficient in its production of nuclear fuel.

Preliminary studies show that Saudi Arabia boasts an estimated 60,000 tons of uranium ore. The country has confirmed that it is conducting exploratory uranium mining studies nationally to fully utilize its mineral resources.

The Kingdom will assess the prospects of growing its nuclear power sector, based on its needs, and requires three prerequisites from vendors, including the fulfilment of minimum local-content requirements, employment of Saudi workers, and cooperation in creating research and development (R&D) programs.

KAPSARC’s research continues in the face of global current events. Earlier in February, the center announced that it had jumped 14 positions to place 15th in the MENA category according to the University of Pennsylvania 2019 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report. The center has also climbed four places in the Energy and Resources Policy category, where it now ranks 13th globally. — SG


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