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

 Saudi National Atomic Energy Projectمشاركة |


K.A.CARE is considered the responsible entity for the development of atomic energy in Saudi Arabia, enabling atomic energy to contribute to the national energy mix and meet the requirements of the national sustainable development stipulated in the ambitious Vision 2030, in accordance with local requirements and international obligations, making atomic energy part of the energy system in Saudi Arabia, as well as enhancing the pioneering role of Saudi Arabia as an energy-efficient country.

The implementation of atomic energy system revolves around the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project, which consists of four main components: Large Nuclear Reactors, System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART), Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Regulation and Control, with several initiatives and projects falls under each component. The project was approved after the issuance of 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 No. 649 dated 1/11/1438 AH, which urges the entry of Saudi Arabia into the  peaceful nuclear field.


Large Nuclear Reactors 

​Large nuclear reactors are reactors with an electric capacity of between 1,000 and 1600 MW per reactor; thus, it contributes in supporting the basic load in the electrical grid throughout the year. It has a high capacity to produce electricity sustainably at a low cost. That is the reason why Saudi Arabia aims to introduce this type to the energy mix.

Large nuclear reactors are divided into three main types:

  • Light-Water Reactor.
  • Heavy-Water Reactor
  • •Boiling-Water Reactor

Saudi Arabia has adopted Light-Water Reactors as an ideal choice as electric power generators for several reasons; the most important would be the feasibility and efficiency of clean energy production and the simplicity of its maintenance. Which confirms why 291 such reactors have been built around the world so far compared to the other types of reactors that have not exceeded the combined number of 127 reactors.

These large reactors have enormous capacity to produce electricity. One reactor would produce around 1,000-1,600 megawatts, so nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia will generate electricity at a rate of 5% of the Kingdom's electricity demands. Given the need of these types of nuclear reactors for cooling, they will require to be built on the coasts.

Large nuclear reactors components includes the design and construction of the first atomic power plant site in Saudi Arabia, and the processing of its infrastructure. As well as the study of nuclear reactor technology and the preliminary technical study of engineering designs to select the most appropriate technology to build the first nuclear reactor. In addition to the establishment of an independent legal entity to follow up and realize the commercial interests of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project under the name of the Nuclear Holding Company. Below are the details on the components of large nuclear reactors.


1.1 Selecting and configuring sites to build the first nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia

Selecting and configuring sites is one of the most important first steps to build nuclear power plants. Determining a suitable location for the construction of a nuclear reactor is based on technical standards that are internationally recognized and derived from international expertise and guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

As part of K.A.CARE's efforts to develop Saudi Arabia's energy program, since its establishment in 2011/2012 it gave a loud attention of 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.CRE is keen to ensure that these studies are based on a methodology approved 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 these criteria, the locations selection methodology is carried out in stages that are gradual, with further studies of the different technical characteristics of each location, in order to nominate the best for the construction of 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, as described in the following diagram:


In this context, K.A.CARE has completed the first and second stages. In the first stage, a comprehensive mapping of all Saudi Arabia's lands was conducted in order to identify the potential areas that are initially feasible for the construction of reactors by applying the exclusion criteria. First, is to exclude areas that are technically unsuitable in terms of safety and security of the nuclear reactors. Then apply the preference criteria on the remaining regional areas to determine the potential areas for further study at subsequent stages.

Of those marked regional areas, sixteen were identified for potential locations to apply the second and third stages. Then the selection and review stage of the potential sites in those specific areas has been documented, and seventeen potential locations in potential areas were marked.

The sites can be classified regionally, 9 potential sites located near the Red Sea coast, 6 potential sites located on the Arabian Gulf, and 2 sites located in the inland areas of Saudi Arabia. All these potential sites have been characterized in the preliminary plans of its development based on the review of specialized publications in this field, analysis of maps and site visits. Moreover, based on these data and information, the second stage of the site studies was carried out where K.A.CARE has conducted a comparative study between the sites and their compatibility to 22 different technical criteria.

On the basis of the second stage, potential sites were examined and selected according to the general compatibility with these criteria, and the suitability with the specific relevance criteria matrices. Based on the preliminary observations and subsequent technical evaluations, none of the potential sites were excluded; all 17 potential sites were found to have the characteristics of sites considered suitable for the establishment of nuclear power plants. However, by applying preferential criteria, these sites were arranged according to preference, thus selecting six sites to choose from for the third stage.

According to this standard methodology, the third stage of site studies should be carried out on one or more of the nominated sites, including detailed on-site technical measurements and inspections. These characteristics and studies are necessary on several aspects, In one aspect, this stage confirms the actual site suitability to the construction of the power plant with accordance to the safety and security requirements based on the data and measurements collected from within the site and not through the general open sources, which usually are not precise or accurate enough. On another aspect, the data and information of this stage are necessary to meet the regulatory and licensing requirements of the regulator authorized to establish the power plant. Finally, these data are necessary to complete the detailed geometrical design of the power plant, which is greatly in line with the process of preparing supply contracts and offers for the power plant.

All this requires the study of the technical characteristics of selected sites to provide the necessary information before embarking on the final and detailed design of the power plant and the beginning of its construction.

K.A.CARE has completed the first and second stage in 2013, and is currently working on the third and final stage of the process of selecting and configuring the locations of nuclear power plants.

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

K.A.CARE has commissioned a specialized international consulting company to implement the technical and engineering characteristics study project on the two sites that are nominated for the 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.


1.2 Front-End Engineering Design Technical Study (FEED)

Front-End Engineering Design technical study (FEED) is a detailed technical study of nuclear power plants entry to Saudi Arabia. Through that study, technology suppliers whom are  (Russia, America, France, South Korea and China) are contacted to provide integrated data on the technologies available, and offer the Supplier's reference Design that suits the climatic and environmental conditions of Saudi Arabia. As well as to meet the legislative requirements and systems adopted by the Nuclear and Radiation Control Authority in order to achieve the highest levels of nuclear safety and security.


These preliminary studies' aim is to achieve the following objectives:

  • To contribute in the entry of reliable and credible nuclear energy technology to Saudi Arabia's energy mix.
  • Identify and select the best techniques to build the first nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia while achieving the highest levels of nuclear safety and economic benefits.
  • Meet the requirements of the Nuclear and Radiation Control Authority and the electrical grid based on the designs and operational specifications of the best international practices.


K.A.CARE undertook the preliminary technical study of the engineering designs in 2017 and 2018 in order to prepare for the construction of the large nuclear power plant. Work is under way in preparing a detailed construction plan, developing the appropriate evaluation mechanism and selecting the technical supplier.

The main objective of this study is to reduce risks related to the nuclear reactors project by developing suppliers' designs based on nuclear regulations, location data and preparations for the implementation of the project.


1 .3 Nuclear Holding Company

K.A.CARE works to establish a 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 nationally and internationally in projects and assets of economic feasibility. In addition to the development, ownership and operation of nuclear assets for the electric power production, desalinated water and thermal energy through subsidiaries or joint ventures. The company will represent an important component in the indigenization of technology and building the human capacity in the nuclear industry, and the promotion of local content according to performance indicators and standards determined by K.A.CARE. The company's objectives include, for example and not limited to:

  • Act as an independent legal entity to conduct business and commerce activities on the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project.
  • Building a financing facility to obtain the required funds for the project.
  • Work as a strategic partner with private investors and technology suppliers targeted at the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project.


System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactors (SMART) 

System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactors (SMART) are considered 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, and are still the normative choice for electricity production. K.A.CARE has conducted a strategic study to engage in technical partnerships with suppliers of System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) technologies, which have been included in the components of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project to achieve the following objectives:

  • Engage in a technical partnership with technology suppliers to acquire technology, thus the entry of Saudi Arabia into the nuclear field as a technology developer and owner that stands among the countries with technology ownership.
  • Utilize its applications in terms of electricity production, water desalination and steam production for thermal applications.
  • Simplicity of its indigenization due to its small size, and a faster gradual entry to national factories.
  • Opportunity to develop Saudi human resources that are still under development (unlike the case in large reactors).
  • Meet the demand for electricity in remote and distant areas from the electric grid.

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


1.1  High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors technology

High-temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTGRs) are one of the world's fourth generation small modular nuclear 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 allow it to meet the requirements of clean energy in Saudi Arabia.

China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Corporation has been involved in the development of the fourth-generation High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors technology with Tsinghua University, and has the sole right to use High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors. 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 of the most serious possible accidents were conducted (such as the Fukushima incident with the power outages), all of which ended 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 7 grams of heavy minerals. U-235 represent 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 the reactor mentioned above, as shown in the following picture:



1.2 System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART)

Indigenization 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 them in coastal or inland areas.

3. Simplicity of its indigenization due to its small size, and a faster gradual entry to 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 indigenize the 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 achieving the objectives of the national transformation program. 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 is working in a strategic partnership with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) on preparing the engineering design of the reactor to develop the technology, invest in it commercially and build human resources. A number of Saudi engineers, under the supervision of experts from the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, were trained on the designs of the SMART reactor for two and a half years. The plan of indigenization of System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor technologies was also under study in which a consultancy company was hired to develop solutions for the construction and indigenization of SMART technologies; to ensure sustainability of the project by developing an action plan to attract investors and engage in international partnerships to minimize potential risks. In addition to prioritizing the power plant components that can be indigenized in a short time. The Chairman of K.A.CARE, Eng. Khaled Al-Faleh, has visited the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAI) and met with the Saudi engineers involved in the design of the System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor.




Nuclear Fuel Cycle Unit 

Nuclear Fuel Cycle is one of the main components of the Saudi National Atomic Energy Project. The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Management at K.A.CARE is the department responsible for the production of nuclear fuel for Saudi Arabia's peaceful nuclear program by indigenizing the techniques of nuclear fuel production stages, starting with the exploration and mining of uranium ores, then the conversion and enrichment stages and ending with manufacturing nuclear fuel. This department also deals with the back stage of the fuel cycle, which includes temporary storage, processing and recycling, as well as permanent geological storage of nuclear waste.


Nuclear Fuel Cycle:

Processes of fuel cycles are classified as follows:

  • Front Nuclear fuel cycle (processes that precede the use of nuclear fuel reactor).
  • Back Nuclear fuel cycle (processes following the use of nuclear fuel reactor).

    The classification of the nuclear fuel cycle depends on the recycling processes of consumed fuel and the extraction of uranium from it before the final disposal. Nuclear fuel cycle includes a recycling process called the Closed Nuclear Fuel Cycle, and another nuclear fuel cycle that ends with the final disposal without recycling which is called the Open Nuclear Fuel Cycle.
  • Closed Nuclear Fuel Cycle:
  • Open Nuclear Fuel Cycle:



  • Develop local content for Nuclear Fuel Cycle components.
  • Optimum utilization of natural resources for fuel supply.
  • Support the local economy by investing in Nuclear Fuel Cycle components.
  • Qualifying Saudi cadres specialized in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle components.


  • Develop and propose a national nuclear fuel cycle policy and strategy and offer nuclear fuel supply security solutions.
  • Conduct studies and surveys on national reserves of natural nuclear materials.
  • Conduct feasibility studies for potential fuel cycle projects including mining, converting, enriching, and manufacturing nuclear fuel.
  • Engage in national and international partnerships to invest in nuclear material mining / supply of nuclear fuel.
  • Conduct a study of establishing national commercial entities to support and implement nuclear fuel supply services for reactors locally, regionally and internationally.
  • Technical coordination for developmental studies and research in the field of nuclear fuel cycle.
  • Preparation of training and qualifications plans for human resources in the fields of nuclear fuel cycle.
  • Build sustainable relations with stakeholders to cooperate and provide technical support in the scopes of the nuclear fuel cycle.


    Current programs of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Component includes:
  1. Exploration of Uranium and Thorium Ores in Saudi Arabia (Stage I).
  2. Indigenization of nuclear fuel cycle in the production of uranium and the attainment of investment returns.


1.1   Exploration of Uranium and Thorium Ores 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 to the private sector. As well as enhance the investment of raw materials in diversifying sources of income, building human capacity, 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, where the Saudi Geological Survey supervises the exploration's contractor and mining 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.





1.2 Indigenization of nuclear fuel cycle in the production of uranium and the attainment of investment returns

The project focuses on cooperation with the Jordanian side for technology transfer and training of national cadres in the exploration of uranium ores, which will enhance and increase local content in industrial and service value chains, and in the indigenization of technical expertise through the production of uranium oxide (Yellowcake) and conducting a fundable economic feasibility study. The project was approved within the framework of the National Transformation Program 2020 under the name of (the Initiative of Indigenizing the Nuclear Fuel Cycle in the Production of Uranium and Attainment of Investment Returns) by the Council of Ministers Resolution No. 362 dated 1/9/1437 AH. Then it was transferred as a 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.


The project's objectives are:
  • Qualification of national cadres in the exploration and extraction of uranium in three stages; in the first stage: 15 trainees, in the second stage: 15 trainees, and in the third stage: 20 trainees.
  • Design the prototype of the extraction unit and conduct a study on the production of uranium oxide.
  • Report on the environmental impact of mining sites study.
  • Assess the resources and reserves of uranium ore 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 benefit from in the Saudi project.

Radioactive Waste Management


The National Center of Radioactive Waste Management at K.A.CARE is responsible for managing all aspects of radioactive waste in Saudi Arabia, as well as following up with the relevant authorities to identify all sources of radioactive waste and control its transport and storage in order to protect the people and the environment from its threats. Radioactive waste means substances resulting from activities or processes of interventions such as removal of radioactive decontamination, regardless of the physical state; it also may contain radioactive substance or radioactive contaminant, and have radioactive activity or concentrations above the level necessary to lift censorship.

The sources of radioactive waste vary according to the type of manufacturing processes that results such wastes. These sources include the following:

  1. Nuclear power plants.
  2. All phases and stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.
  3. Extraction of nuclear substances, such as uranium and thorium.
  4. Use of radioisotopes in scientific research and in industry, mining and agriculture.
  5. Nuclear medicine including diagnosis and treatment.
  6. Production of radioactive drugs and sources.


Currently, the sources of radioactive waste in Saudi Arabia are limited to the last two sources. After the launch of Saudi National Atomic Energy Project and in compliance with Vision 2030; all these resources are taken into account, and this will be reflected in K.A.CARE's strategies in managing these radioactive waste while following the highest international standards and best practices.



Nuclear Framework Office


The Nuclear Framework Office at K.A.CARE is the primary responsible body and the main coordinator of bilateral and multilateral agreements in the atomic energy sector. The Office also supervises over all the activities of the Arab Atomic Energy Agency in Tunisia and the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, including the Technical Cooperation Program, which assists member states to benefit from all IAEA services; namely the Agency's basic approach to transfer nuclear technology to member states in subjects such as Health, Food, Agriculture and energy.

Moreover, The Office works and coordinates with the Office at Vienna, which carries out the appointed tasks in coordination with the Saudi Embassy at Austria and the Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia in the international organizations at Vienna within the framework of coordination between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the presidency of K.A.CARE. The Office shall exercise its functions at the direction of the Ambassador or Permanent Representative, and it shall operate under the umbrella of the Permanent Delegation. All correspondences shall be signed by the Ambassador or the Permanent Representative. The Office is also briefed on all developments as the reference of other delegations or officials of international organizations. The Director of the Office shall act as the Technical Adviser to the Ambassador on relevant subjects.