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Saudi may enrich uranium for nuclear plants: report

world Updated: Jun 18, 2010 14:48 IST
PTI
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Saudi Arabia may mine and enrich uranium to fuel power plants if it embarks on a civilian nuclear energy programme, a newspaper report citing a draft nuclear strategy for the Kingdom has said.

According to the report, Saudi Arabia would want to play a role in as many of the stages of generating nuclear power as possible eventually.

"Enrichment could happen there and the same with mining uranium. But outsourcing will happen initially," David Cox, president for energy at the UK branch of Finnish management consultancy Poyry was quoted by 'Arab News' as saying.

Saudi Arabia instructed Poyry to evaluate the economic and technical feasibility of its involvement in all stages of the nuclear power generation cycle.

"They want to be involved in as many aspects as possible and our study is to evaluate what part of it is possible at a reasonable economic cost," Cox said. The study will be completed in a couple of months and includes an overall strategy encompassing technical, economical and institutional dimensions for starting the development of nuclear plants, he added.

The UAE became the first country in the Gulf to embark upon a nuclear power generation programme last year.

But the UAE decided from an early stage to import fuel for the plants, as it sought to reassure the international community that it had no military intentions with its programme.

The UAE and US signed a nuclear cooperation agreement and US firms bid for contracts to build its nuclear fleet.

Middle East and North Africa countries including Saudi Arabia have potential for a large number of uranium deposits, according to recent research by the Jackson School of Geosciences at University of Texas.

Those could supply the raw material for nuclear power generation.

Any programme the Kingdom embarks upon would take years to complete, said Philipp Elkuch, president of the nuclear energy business group at Poyry.

"Nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia is really a long term strategy that can span 10-20 years from now, while renewable energy can be deployed much faster," Elkuch told the newspaper.

Saudi Arabia and US signed a nuclear cooperation deal in 2008.

France said in 2009 it was close to finalising a civilian nuclear agreement.

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