Riyadh awaits US response to nuclear project

19 July 2023

 

Saudi Arabia is understood to be expecting Washington's response in terms of US firms' participation in the kingdom's civilian nuclear power plant project, a source close to the project tells MEED.

This aligns with a statement made in June by Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan that the kingdom prefers to have the US as one of the bidders for the programme, as reported by local media.

“There are others that are bidding and, obviously, we would like to build our programme with the best technology in the world, and that will require a certain agreement to be in place,” Prince Faisal said in June during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Bid extension

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-Care) has granted a four-month extension for companies to submit their proposals for the kingdom's first large-scale nuclear power plant project, as MEED reported.

According to a source close to the project, the client now expects responses to its request for proposals (RFP) for the Duwaiheen nuclear plant project by 31 October, four months later than the previous 30 June deadline.

The project is in the so-called bid invitation specification stage, and there are no direct negotiations taking place between the client and the potential bidders at this stage, the source tells MEED.

Market confusion

This clarifies the market confusion on the status of the project's procurement process.   

The Finance Ministry said in its 2023 annual budget statement that the kingdom received bids on 31 December 2022 for the deal to build Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power plant.

However, another industry source close to the project told MEED last month that the bid deadline for the contract was extended to the end of June this year.

MEED earlier reported that the most likely bidders for the main contract are China National Nuclear Corporation, Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) and Russia’s Rosatom.

It now appears that the French company EDF has also been invited to submit a bid. 

Neither KA-Care nor the apparent bidders have confirmed the bid list.

Nuclear offtake

State offtaker Saudi Power Procurement Company (SPPC) recently received bids for the financial, legal and technical consultancy contracts to prepare and review project agreements related to the procurement of electricity from the Duwaiheen plant.

The scope extends to signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the project company for the planned nuclear power plant, provisionally called Duwaiheen Nuclear Energy Company.

Consultants

Work on advisory contracts for the kingdom’s planned multibillion-dollar nuclear power programme is progressing, as MEED reported in November last year.

KA-Care awarded three separate contracts for the legal, technical and financial advisory works in May 2022.

It awarded a team led by UK-headquartered EY the financial advisory contract in May 2022. Legal and technical consultancy contracts for the project were signed earlier. 

In 2018, Australia’s Worley was appointed by KA-Care for the project management office consultancy role for the nuclear energy programme. Worley is understood to have previously completed the Large Nuclear Power Plant (LNPP) site selection study for KA-Care.

Three-pronged strategy

Riyadh plans to develop nuclear power through a three-pronged strategy. The majority of the nuclear power capacity will be developed through conventional, large-scale nuclear facilities, such as the one being tendered.

The kingdom also plans to develop atomic energy through a series of smaller, system-integrated modular advanced reactor technology (Smart) nuclear power plants in partnership with South Korea.

The third pillar of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear energy programme will involve mining uranium resources to fuel the plants, as highlighted earlier this year by the energy minister.

MEED understands that the Biden administration supports Saudi Arabia’s clean energy transition, including its efforts to develop a peaceful nuclear energy programme, but it has stopped short of signalling US approval for the kingdom's uranium enrichment plans.

Photo: Flickr

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Jennifer Aguinaldo
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