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Saudi launches project to build a nuclear research reactor

By Sheetal Sukhija, Dubai News
06 Nov 2018, 13:22 GMT+10

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - In a bid to boost the Kingdom's energy industry, Saudi Arabia has launched a project to build the first nuclear research reactor in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Monday that the Kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had visited Riyadh's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, where he launched seven strategic projects.

The statement noted that the strategic projects were in renewable energy, atomic energy, water desalination, genetic medicine and the aircraft industry.

Amongst the projects launched this week however, the two most significant ones were one to build a nuclear research reactor and a centre for the development of aircraft structures.

The SPA has not released any further details related to the cost of the project, or when the research or non-power reactor would be built.

The research or non-power reactor is typically used for research, development and education purposes.

In March this year, the Crown Prince had revealed that his country was ready to develop nuclear weapons, warning that if the Kingdom's arch enemy Iran heads in that direction, Saudi would too. 

During an interview with U.S. broadcaster CBS, Mohammed bin Salman said in March, "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible."

The statement by the Crown Prince came months after the International Atomic Energy Agency pointed out that the Saudi government had invited proposals for the construction of two nuclear power reactors.

Currently, Saudi Arabia draws on oil and natural gas to meet its own fast-growing power demand and desalinate its water.

However, as it seeks to diversify, the Kingdom has stated that it eventually plans to build 17 nuclear reactors over the next two decades.

Saudi has forged ahead with its plans despite concerns over nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and has said that its plans, worth $80 billion, involve building 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity - which would make it one of the biggest projects globally.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates is the other Gulf Arab state to be proceeding with plans to launch a nuclear power project.

The U.A.E. is currently building four South Korea-designed reactors.

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