King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy » Projects » Saudi National Atomic Energy Project

 Saudi National Atomic Energy Projectمشاركة |

KSA set and implement national plans for atomic energy sector as an alternative energy source, and contribute in providing national development requirement. Atomic energy will be part of energy mix in the Saudi Arabia to insure its pioneering role as an energy-efficient country, which is the ambitious goal of Vision 2030. The project was approved by the royal decree No. 43309 dated 19/9/1438 AH, that stated the establishment of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project and was validated by the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 649 dated 1/11/1438 AH, which urges the entry of Saudi Arabia into the peaceful nuclear field and its greater expected benefits.


The Project main benefits are: enhance energy sources diversity, instead of depending completely on oil and its derivatives in generating energy. This will lead to save oil sources for longer time, by reducing its consumption internally. In addition to providing electricity and addressing water shortage by using atomic energy for desalinating seawater. Which will effect Saudi citizens and many sectors in the Saudi Arabia including agriculture, manufacturing and drinking water. The expected benefits will also include creating new learning, training and job opportunities, with an advanced technical nature, which will be valuable to Saudi Arabia and its citizens.


Saudi National Atomic Energy Project Components   


The Saudi National Atomic Energy Project consists of four main components: (1) Large Nuclear Reactors, (2) Small Modular Reactor (SMR), (3) Nuclear Fuel Cycle, (4) Nuclear & Radiological Regulatory Commission.


First Component: Large Nuclear Power Reactor Program 


Large nuclear reactors are reactors with an electric capacity of between 1,000 and 1600 MW per reactor. Thus type of nuclear reactors contribute in supporting the basic load in the electrical grid throughout the year. The project includes: Site Selecting and Characterization for the first Large Nuclear Power Plant in KSA, along developing the required infrastructure. In addition, study the related nuclear power technologies and their initial technical engineering designs to select the best technology that fits the needs of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has adopted the Pressured Water Reactors (PWR) Design as an optimal option for electricity generation reactors for several reasons: they are the most feasible and efficient solutions of clean energy production along the simplicity of its maintenance. Which confirms why 291 such reactors have been built around the world so far, in addition to 50 reactors under construction, compared to the other types of reactors that have not exceeded 127 reactors.


Site Preparation and Infrastructure Development

K.A.CARE undertook the preliminary technical study, selecting and configuring sites and infrastructure to build two large reactors in Saudi Arabia in one location. Therefore, a tender was issued for site characterization study for the selected sites to build the first nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia in November 2017.  As part of K.A.CARE's efforts to develop Saudi Arabia's nuclear energy program, since its establishment (and specifically in 2011/2012) it gave a loud attention on conducting scientific and specialized technical studies to determine the areas of potential locations for the construction of nuclear power plants to generate electricity. K.A.CARE was keen to ensure that all of these studies are based on approved methodology and compatible with the latest standards derived from the guidance and recommendations of the credible international regulators led by the IAEA and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. According to this criteria, the locations selection methodology is carried out in gradual stages with further studies for different technical characteristics of each location, in order to nominate the best location for constructing the nuclear power plant. Specifically, K.A.CARE has adopted the methodology of conducting site studies in three stages: First: mapping, reviewing and examining sites. Second: classifying and selecting sites. Third: site evaluation through field technical characteristics study. K.A.CARE has completed the first and second stages back in 2013, and currently working on the third and last stage.


In 2017, a Royal Decree was issued for identifying two locations on the Arabian Gulf coast to conduct the third stage studies, one as a preferred location and the other as an alternative site in case of invalidity of the first site due to lack of composition and specification of the soil layers. K.A.CARE has started the site characterization study, which includes several technical subsidiary studies, each one relates to a certain technical aspect of sites characteristics.


K.A.CARE has awarded a specialized international consulting company to implement the technical and engineering characteristics study project on the two sites that are nominated for the nuclear power plant. In addition to the site characteristics reports, the project outputs include the site assessment report, the preliminary safety analysis report, and the environmental impact report for the Nuclear and Radiation Control Authority to rely on in the issuance of the construction license. Project outputs also include site-specific engineering information for use in the engineering design. It is expected that the detailed study of the site characteristics and selection of the favorable location for the construction of the reactor to be completed by 2020.


Large Nuclear Power Plant (LNPP)


K.A.CARE issued a RFI for nuclear technology suppliers in 20 November 2017 (from South Korea, China,  France, Russia and USA) as part of the Pre-feasibility study for engineering design to select the most suitable technology for Saudi Arabia. All responses of RFI were received on 31 December 2017. Currently, K.A.CARE is developing the RFP based on the responses and the financial, legal and technical consultants support to be launched by the end of December 2021, the cost estimates of the nuclear power plant with 2 large nuclear power reactors is expected to exceed 14 billion dollars.


K.A.CARE implemented initial technical study for the engineering designs in 2017 and 2018 in order to prepare the construction of the large nuclear power plant. K.A.CARE is preparing a detailed construction plan and developing the appropriate evaluation approach for selecting the supplier candidate.


These preliminary studies' aims to achieve the following objectives:

o   To contribute in the introduction of reliable and credible nuclear energy technology to Saudi Arabia's energy mix.

o   Identify and select the best technologies for the first nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia while achieving the highest levels of nuclear safety and economic benefits.

o   Meet the requirements of the Nuclear and Radiation Regulatory Commission (NRRC) and the electrical grid based on the designs and operational specifications of the best international practices.

o   Minimize the hazards related to nuclear power plants by developing the supplier's designs based on the nuclear regulations and site-specific data and prepare for project implementation


Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company (SNEHC)


K.A.CARE worked on establishing the Nuclear Holding Company to be an independent legal entity to follow up and realize the commercial interests of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project by participating and investing in projects and assets with national and international economic feasibility . In addition, to develop, own and operate the nuclear assets for electric power production, water desalination and thermal energy through subsidiaries or joint ventures. The company is representing an important component in the localization of technology and building human capacity in the nuclear industry, along the promotion of local content according to performance indicators and standards determined by K.A.CARE. The company's objectives include, for example but not limited to:

o   Act as an independent legal entity to conduct business and commerce activities on the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project.

o   Build financing pool to obtain the required funds for the project.

o   Work as a strategic partner with private investors and technology suppliers targeted at the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project.


As the comprehensive study have been conducted for the establishment of Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company based on the best practices and in cooperation with international expertise, K.A.CARE is developing a working system for the program that will be owned completely by the government. SNEHC will establish a limited liability subsidiary for small modular nuclear reactor projects and uranium extraction and mining projects, in addition to the operation company who will conduct operations and maintenance for small or large reactors' power plants. Council of Ministers Resolution No. 410 dated 17/6/1441 AH was issued to establish the Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company


Second Component: Small Modular Reactor


Small Modular Reactors (SMR) are considered as modern reactors with a production range of between 10 and 300 MW compared to Large Nuclear Reactors with a production of between 1,000 and 1,600 MW. K.A.CARE has conducted a strategic study to engage technical partnerships with suppliers of Small Modular Reactors (SMR) technologies, which have been included as part of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project to achieve the following objectives:

·       Enter a technical partnership with technology suppliers to acquire technology, thus introducing Saudi Arabia into the nuclear field as a technology developer and owner which stands it among the countries who own this technology.

·       Utilization of its applications in terms of electricity production, water desalination and steam production for thermal applications.

·       Simplicity of its localization due to its small size, and the ability of faster and gradual entry to national factories.

·       Opportunity to develop Saudi human resources that are still under development (unlike the large reactors).

·       Meet the demand for electricity in remote and distant areas away from the electric grid.


Under this component, K.A.CARE targets two technologies as: High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors technology (HTGR) and System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) technology.


High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTGR) Technology


High-temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTGRs) are one of the world's most mature small modular nuclear reactors, one of the 4th generation reactors. The above-mentioned reactors are characterized by the following specifications: implicit safety, high power efficiency, simplicity of design systems, and the possibility of using it in several industrial applications. The characteristics of High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) meets the requirements of clean energy in Saudi Arabia.


China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Corporation (CNEC) has been involved in the development of this fourth-generation High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors technology with Tsinghua University, and has the sole right to use it. China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Corporation is responsible for the research, development, investment, construction and activities related the High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors in the People's Republic of China.


Safety Features

HTGR is a quantum leap in terms of nuclear safety; the core of the reactor is meltdown resistant even in the most severe nuclear accidents. In addition to several reasons related to reactor design and nuclear fuel technology, the design is characterized by "inherent safety" where simulation tests impose serious possible accidents (such as the Fukushima incident with the power outages), all of which stopped safely after 6 days without any human intervention.



High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors mechanism

HTGR uses helium-free gas with chemical inertness as a coolant, and graphite substance to defuse neutrons. After raising the temperature of the helium gas at the core of the reactor to 750 ° C, high-temperature steam will be generated through the steam generator. The steam will then flow to the turbine generator to generate electricity.


The fuel used in the nuclear reactor is spherical elements; each element contains of 7 grams of heavy minerals. U-235 represents 8.5% of the fuel spherical elements with a diameter of 0.5 mm that are coated with three layers of hydrocarbon and one layer of carbon silicone.



High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors applications

HTGR can be shared with the industrial sector that uses heat intensively. There are many applications through which we can connect this reactor including electricity generation and production of  steam that required for the petrochemical industry and seawater desalination. Moreover, the variety of reactor's technology, HTR-PM type, are able to fulfill electricity generation, petrochemical industry and seawater desalination supply requirements in Saudi Arabia.



System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) Technology


Localization of System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) falls under the second component of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project. SMART technology is a small, modular, advanced nuclear reactor that can be built as independent units. This technology is distinguished by its advanced safety features that enables it to generate thermal power of 360 MW, this type of reactors can produce 110 MW of electricity, or 90 MW of electricity and 40,000 tons of desalinated water simultaneously (i.e., enough for nearly one hundred thousand people,) a SMART reactor is characterized by the following:


1. Short period of construction and low capital and operational costs for building power plants compared to large nuclear reactors.

2. Possibility of building it in coastal or inland areas.

3. Simplicity of its localization due to its small size, and the faster gradual entry for national factories.

4. High safety standards due to its reliance on a safety system that does not require an electrical source.


The System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor Project aims to localize SMART technology in Saudi Arabia, and joint investment in this technology through its internal construction to support the production of electricity and water desalination, as well as exporting and marketing it abroad. In addition to the development of human capabilities in this field, which in turn will contribute to achieve the objectives of the National Transformation Program (NTP). Furthermore, focusing on innovation in advanced technologies, providing training opportunities nationally and internationally, and empowering promising national companies to become economic entities.


K.A.CARE through its strategic partnership with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) is developing the engineering design of the reactor technology, invest in it commercially and build human resources. A number of Saudi engineers, under the supervision of KAERI's experts, were trained on the designs of SMART reactor for two and half years. The SMART localization plan was also studied via a consultancy company that was hired to develop the optimal solutions for the construction and localization of SMART technology; to ensure sustainability of the project through developing an action plan to attract investors and engage international partnerships in order to minimize potential risks. In addition, prioritizing the power plant components that can be localized in a short time. The former Chairman of K.A.CARE H.E. Eng. Khaled Al-Faleh, has visited KAERI and met with the Saudi engineers who are involved in SMART design.


SMART is one of K.A.CARE key initiatives that enables Saudi Arabia to acquire and localize nuclear technology, and place Saudi Arabia among the international pioneers in Small Modular nuclear Reactors (SMR) technologies.



Third component: Nuclear Fuel Cycle

This presents the first step for Saudi Arabia to achieve self-sufficient in nuclear fuel production, which will contribute in preparing qualified Saudi scientists specialized in uranium exploration and production, and employ the acquired expertise form this project to develop Kingdom's uranium natural resources, which will create jobs, investment opportunities, and will contribute in acquiring new technology for extracting and producing uranium ores. 


Nuclear fuel cycle is one of the main components of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project. A dedicated department within K.A.CARE is responsible for developing policies and strategies for Saudi Arabia's peaceful nuclear program by localizing the techniques of nuclear fuel production stages, starting from the exploration, mining of uranium ores, and ending with manufacturing nuclear fuel. This department also deals with the back-end of the fuel cycle, which includes temporary storage, processing and recycling, as well as permanent geological storage of nuclear waste.


Nuclear fuel cycle component contains human capability training and development program, and localizing uranium oxide production technology and uranium and thorium ore Exploration

And mining in Saudi Arabia.


Exploration and Assessment of Uranium and Thorium in Saudi Arabia


Exploration of uranium and thorium ore is one of Saudi Arabia's strategic projects that support the objectives of Vision 2030 that would enrich local content, provide employment for citizens, and contribute effectively in the private sector. As well as, enhance the investment of raw materials in diversifying sources of income, building human capabilities, and securing nuclear fuel for nuclear reactors.


The project aims to reach an assess with certainty of uranium and thorium ore resources (Measured Resources) in Saudi Arabia. It is divided into two stages:

1.      Inferred Resource Estimation

2.      Indicated & Measured Resource Estimation


It is worth noting that K.A.CARE leads this vital project in cooperation with the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), where the Saudi Geological Survey oversee the exploration and mining contractor for uranium and thorium ore in the first stage, while K.A.CARE carries out the quality application project. In the second stage, K.A.CARE is appointed to lead the entire project.


Localization of Nuclear Fuel Cycle in Uranium Production and Achieve Investment Returns


The project focuses on cooperation with the Jordanian for training and technology transfer of national cadres in the field of uranium exploration , which will enhance and increase local content in industrial and service value chains, and in building national technical expertise through the production of uranium oxide (Yellowcake) and conducting a fundamental economic feasibility study. The project was approved within the framework of the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 under the name of (Localization of Nuclear Fuel Cycle in Uranium Production and Achieve Investment Returns) by the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 362 dated 1/9/1437 AH. Then it was transferred as a sub-component of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project within the Royal Decree No. 43309 dated 19/9/1438 AH on the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project under Nuclear Fuel Cycle.


The project's objectives are:

o   Prepare qualified national cadres in the field of uranium exploration and extraction in three batches;15 trainees in the first batch, 15 trainees in the second batch, and 20 trainees in the third batch.

o   Design the pilot plant for the extraction unit and conduct a fesability study on the production of uranium oxide.

o   Report on the Environmental Impact Assessment for mining sites.

o   Assess the resources and reserves of uranium in the central region of Jordan according to the JORC standard to confirm the economic feasibility. K.A.CARE is entitled to invest in Jordan as a strategic partner and gain implementation knowledge to be applied in the Saudi project for Uranium mining and production.