Saudi feeling the power with launch of nuclear reactor project

November 6, 2018 1:40 pm

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a project to build the first nuclear research reactor in the kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

During a visit to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology on Monday, he, in fact, launched seven cutting edge and strategic projects in renewable energy, atomic energy, water desalination, genetic medicine, and aircraft industries.

Nuclear power

The kingdom is considering building 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors for $80 billion, making it one of the biggest projects globally, though the UAE is building four South Korea-designed reactors.

According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia is aiming to reduce the amount of crude it burns at home to generate electricity to allow it to sell more of it overseas.

Arab News said reactor designs were developed by KACST scientists with the help of international experts.

“The reactor will follow all the safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The reactor is designed to use uranium oxide fuel with 2.1% enrichment,” said Arab News.

Read Saudi Arabia PMI: New business growth improves during October

Taking flight

One of the other projects reviewed by the Crown Prince is a center for the development of aircraft structures to be based at King Khalid International Airport.

The center is one of the largest buildings for developing aircraft in the Middle East with an area of 27,000 sqms with plans to expand it to 92,000 sqms, reports Arab News.

The center has the capacity to manufacture most aircraft structures, whether civilian or military.

Read: Saudi national transformation plan: Very alive and well

Other projects

Another project is a genome laboratory for tackling genetic disease in the Kingdom.

“The National Laboratory of the Saudi Human Genome contains the latest technologies in the study of genetic code, and 100,000 samples which are being examined to create a medical database,” according to Arab News.

The laboratory is equipped to diagnose a large number of genetic diseases, which cost more than SR4 billion ($1.08 bn) a year to treat.

During his tour of the KACST headquarters, Crown Prince Mohammed also reviewed two solar-powered water desalination plants. A plant in Al-Khafji will have a capacity of 60,000 cubic meters per day, while another in Yanbu will have a capacity of 5,200 cubic meters per day.

He was also briefed on satellite projects, including the SaudiSat 5A and SaudiSat 5B satellites.

Read: Son’s Softbank makes $7.7bn net income in H1, pledges support to Saudi

Gulf Power needs

A recent MENA Power Industry Outlook 201,  prepared by Ventures Onsite for Middle East Electricity, a regional event, says a rapidly growing population, urbanization, rising income levels and industrialization are driving increased electricity demand throughout the GCC.

It said the region is expected to require power infrastructure investment totaling $109 billion over the next five years, the Saudi Gazette reports.

The GCC alone will require $55 billion for an additional 43 GW of generating capacity and $34 billion for transmission.

“The GCC region appears best suited for PPP opportunities considering the sustained lowered hydrocarbon prices,” said the report.

The MENA Power Industry Outlook 2019 also reveals that much of the investment will be focused on diversification and conservation of electricity with a renewed emphasis on solar, renewables and smart grids.

“The GCC smart grid market, which is gaining prominence, is projected to grow to $1.68 billion by 2026 due to the deployment of smart grid infrastructure by GCC governments. Energy storage systems are also becoming attractive in the GCC as it forms a crucial component in the development of smarter grids. The GCC countries’ grid inter-connectivity is expected to generate $33 billion in investments, economic and energy savings over the next 25 years,” says the Outlook.

Follow AMEinfo on Facebook , LinkedIn, and Twitter , and subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

Hadi Khatib
By Hadi Khatib
Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years' experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about it.