Saudia Arabia Prepares Her Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

This photograph taken on February 9, 2023 shows the nuclear power plant of Golfech in the southwestern of France. (Photo by MATTHIEU RONDEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia moves forward with bids for nuclear plant

The kingdom has received bids to build its first nuclear power plant and South Korea is reportedly expressing interest.

This photograph taken on Feb. 9, 2023, shows the nuclear power plant of Golfech in southwestern France. – MATTHIEU RONDEL/AFP via Getty Images

Al-Monitor Staff

    February 27, 2023

    Saudi Arabia is progressing with its plans to build its first nuclear power plant and has received a number of bids. 

    The Saudi Ministry of Finance’s 2023 budget statement published Feb. 15 notes that bids to build the plant were received last December, reported the Dubai-based business intelligence outlet Middle East Economic Digest on Monday. 

    Background: Saudi Arabia has had an interest in nuclear power for decades. The kingdom was a major investor in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program that began in the 1970s, for example. In 2009, the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz told the Obama administration that the country would obtain nuclear weapons of its own if Iran were to do so. In 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the same thing to the US news outlet CBS. 

    More recently, Saudi Arabia has been considering developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In 2018, the Saudi government announced its intention to add nuclear power to its energy mix. 

    Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions have been gaining momentum. Korea JoongAng Daily reported in November that South Korea was interested in building Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power plant. 

    Last December, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held a nuclear law workshop with Saudi officials in Riyadh. The IAEA’s purpose was to “support the implementation of its nuclear energy program in a safe, secure and transparent manner,” according to a press release. 

    In early February, Saudi Arabia signed a memorandum of understanding with France on energy cooperation. The memo noted nuclear energy as well as hydrogen and electricity interconnection, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. 

    France gets around 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy. 

    Why it matters: Saudi Arabia’s nuclear push fits with the kingdom’s overall diversification strategy. Saudi Arabia is seeking to reduce its dependence on oil, particularly by investing in renewable energy. In November, the Public Investment Fund announced plans to build a major solar power plant in western Saudi Arabia. 

    Saudi Arabia — as well as Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region — remains concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. The Islamic Republic insists the program is peaceful. Iran said it reached 60% uranium enrichment levels late last year. Weapons-grade uranium requires 90% enrichment. 

    The nuclear talks between the United States and Iran have been dormant since protests began in Iran in September. Saudi Arabia developing nuclear energy of its own, even for peaceful purposes, would therefore be a notable geopolitical development. 

    Know more: The UAE also has a nuclear energy program. Israel is also widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, but the Israeli military has never confirmed it.

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