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IAEA Reviews Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Jose Bastos, left, of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, hands over the INIR team’s preliminary draft report to Dr Khalid Al Sultan, President of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), at the conclusion of the INIR mission in Riyadh on 24 July 2018. (Photo: K.A.CARE)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded a twelve-day mission to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to review its development of infrastructure for a nuclear power programme. The Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR), which ended on 24 July, was carried out at the invitation of the Government of Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia, a country of more than 33 million people and a leading global producer of crude oil, is seeking to diversify and increase its power production capacity for continued economic growth and development. Last year, the Government launched a project to request proposals from vendors for the construction of two nuclear power reactors after announcing its intention to add nuclear power to the country’s energy mix.

The INIR mission reviewed the status of nuclear infrastructure development using the Phase 2 criteria of the IAEA's Milestones Approach, which provides detailed guidance across three phases (consider, prepare, construct) of development. The end of Phase 2 marks the readiness of a country to invite bids or negotiate a contract for its first nuclear power plant. The INIR team was hosted by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE), which is the country’s Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization. 

“The INIR mission was conducted in a cooperative and open atmosphere” said team leader Jose Bastos, Technical Lead of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. “Saudi Arabia is well placed to finalize its plans for construction of its first nuclear power plant.”

The INIR team said that Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in the development of its nuclear power infrastructure. It has established a legislative framework and is carrying out comprehensive studies to support the next steps of the programme. Saudi Arabia has developed partnerships with countries experienced in the use of nuclear power and is extensively using their technical support. 

The team comprised experts from Brazil, Spain and the United Kingdom as well as IAEA staff. It reviewed the status of 19 nuclear power programme infrastructure issues using the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series Evaluation of the Status of National Infrastructure Development. Prior to the mission, Saudi Arabia submitted a Self-Evaluation Report covering all infrastructure issues as well as supporting documents to the IAEA.

The team made recommendations and suggestions where further action would benefit Saudi Arabia, including: coordination and development of outstanding nuclear-related policies and strategies, finalization of the readiness of key organizations and completion of studies to prepare for future stages of the nuclear power programme.

The team also identified good practices that would benefit other countries considering the introduction of nuclear power in the areas of national position, management, regulatory framework, siting and human resource development.

Dr Khalid Al Sultan, President of K.A.CARE, welcomed the outcome of the INIR mission.

“The vision of Saudi Arabia 2030 considers nuclear energy as an important source to support stability and sustainable growth,” he said. “Deployment of nuclear energy aims for peaceful purposes, in a safe, secure and sustainable manner consistent with highest standards and best practices. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has requested the INIR mission to support this goal. It was a valuable tool to pinpoint areas of improvement and ensure that the required infrastructures are in place before signing the contract for building the first nuclear power plant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

About INIR Missions:

Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions are based on the IAEA Milestones Approach, with its 19 Infrastructure Issues, 3 Phases and 3 Milestones. INIR missions enable IAEA Member State representatives to have in-depth discussions with international experts about experiences and best practices in different countries. In developing its recommendations, the INIR team takes into account the comments made by the relevant national organizations. Implementation of any of the team's recommendations is at the discretion of the Member State requesting the mission. The results of the INIR mission are expected to help the Member State to develop an action plan to fill any gaps, which in turn will help the development of the national nuclear infrastructure. The IAEA publishes the INIR mission report on its website 90 days after its delivery to the Member State, unless the State requests in writing that the IAEA not do so.

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