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Saudi may enrich uranium for nuclear plants: Report

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.



Dubai: 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 a newspaper 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 adding that the study will
be completed in a couple of months and includes an overall
strategy from technical, economical and institutional
dimensions for starting the development of nuclear plants.

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.

PTI

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