Rosatom in talks with Saudi Arabia on nuclear project
5 April 2019 | Argaam.com

Russia's state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom is currently engaged in the competitive dialogue process with Saudi Arabia for constructing of a nuclear power plant (NPP) with two units, its Director-General for Middle East and North Africa Aleksander Voronkov told Argaam in an exclusive interview.

The company is in a “strong position” in the competitive dialogue process, thanks to its latest VVER-1200 Generation III+ reactor flagship product, he added.

“Last year, Rosatom was successfully confirmed to continue for the next stage of the competitive dialogue among other competitors. Currently, we are continuing discussions with King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) on clarifications and more specific items.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia have been setting foundations for their nuclear partnership in the past few years. In 2015, the Kingdom signed an intergovernmental agreement with Russia on cooperation in nuclear followed by the Cooperation on Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy Program in October 2017.

The program covers areas of mutual interest such as nuclear fuel cycle, small and medium reactors, the development of nuclear infrastructure, and the possibility of potentially building a Saudi Center for Nuclear Science and Technology.

In parallel, Rosatom, which has its regional headquarters in Dubai since 2016, is actively cooperating with the Saudi industry and universities to make them full participants of Saudi National Atomic Energy Project.

When asked on the Kingdom’s progress on the nuclear regulatory framework, Voronkov said they were “aware” of Saudi Arabia’s progress in regulatory framework elaboration that they are in constant dialogue with K.A.CARE, referring to the establishment of the Nuclear & Radiation Control Regulatory Authority, as well as the whole process of Nuclear Infrastructure development.

Saudi Arabia received positive feedback fr om the International Atomic Energy Agency's million in July 2018, which Voronkov said was “very important” for every country that has decided to deploy first NPP and to move in a way recommended by IAEA.

While the Finnish Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) has been advising the Kingdom on nuclear energy safety topics, Voronkov asserted that safety is a non-negotiable top priority for Rosatom and have never sacrificed or comprised in favor of reducing the costs to operate and maintain plants or any other overheads.

The IAEA estimates that operating costs of the latest generation, advanced NPP technology is, on average, below $20 per MWh, which is almost twice as cheap compared to natural gas.

"The challenge is to reduce upfront capital costs of construction. And this is wh ere Rosatom has a set of unique competitive advantages compared to other vendors.”

In addition, the VVER-1200 generation III+ reactor, which is offered to the Saudi, uses modern post-Fukushima safety technology and complies with safety requirements specified by IAEA, Western European Association of Nuclear Regulators and European Utility Requirements, Voronkov added.

Saudi Arabia is also currently reviewing bids from American, Chinese, French and South Korean companies for its nuclear power project.

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