In a speech at the 67th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Austria, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman expressed his country’s desire to establish its nuclear power industry. The Saudi kingdom will adhere to IAEA international best practices with its National Atomic Energy Project, according to bin Salman.

“The kingdom has recently taken the decision to rescind its Small Quantities Protocol and move to the implementation of a full scope Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement,” he said.

In 2013, the kingdom planned to have 17GW of nuclear capacity by 2032. However, in January 2015, the planned was delayed and the government said the target of 17GW of nuclear energy output would be reached by 2040. In March 2015, plans were discussed concerning South Korea building two SMART reactors in Saudi Arabia, but nothing was realised.

Saudi leaders stepped up their plans to develop the nuclear energy industry following talks with US leaders in July 2023. Saudi Arabia invited technical bids for the planned construction of two 1.4GW electric nuclear reactors and restated the kingdom’s intention to utilise uranium resources to produce low-enriched uranium as nuclear fuel.

The two nations are yet to come to an agreement on nuclear matters. Saudi Arabia wants uranium enrichment to occur in the country, even if US companies oversee the development of new nuclear reactors. The US is not yet willing to allow this.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman attempted to assuage safety concerns in his speech today. He said the Saudis will work towards improving human capabilities in radiological emergency preparedness and response. He stressed his country’s commitment to uphold its responsibility towards the global Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

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