South Korea is first mover with Saudi nuclear program

smartlogoThe Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has signed an $1 billion agreement with South Korea to build a 300 MWt PWR reactor. The SMART reactor has a design that uses integral steam generators and advanced safety features.

The reactor will have a 60 year design life and a three-year refueling cycle It will be used to generate electricity and to power reverse osmosis desalinization plants at coastal sites. The reactor will generate 100 MW of electrical power for these applications.

Design characteristics of SMART contributing to the safety enhancement are features such as the integral configuration of the reactor coolant system and improved natural circulation capability. The reactor passed a safety review by the South Korean nuclear regulatory agency in 2012.

The agreement is between the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). It is likely the KSA sought out the South Korean technology due to that country’s success in building four 1400 MW PWRs for the United Arab Emirates.

The agreement represents KSA’s first investment in nuclear energy after earlier this year postponing for at least eight years the start of a massive program to build 16 full size reactors at three sites. The initial announcement of that plan set off a feeding frenzy among world reactor vendors only to have their hopes dashed when the KSA energy ministry realized that it didn’t have the workforce, supply chain, or regulatory infrastructure to roll out such a huge program. The ministry said with little explanatory details it was pushing back start of the program by eight years, but these seem to be the most practical reasons for that decision.

UAE 4th nuclear reactor  pours first concrete

The official start of construction of the fourth South Korean supplied 1400 MW PWR type reactor being built for the United Arab Emirates took place at the Barakah site on the Persian gulf coast.  The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) received a go ahead from the country’s nuclear regulatory agency for units 3 & 4 this time last year.  Unit 3 has been under construction since then.  Unit 4 is expected to be completed and enter revenue service by 2020.

More than 18,000 people are working on all four reactors under construction at the Barakah site. the $20 billion deal, announced in 2009, is managed by the Korea Electric Power Corp. Unit 1 was started in July 2012, Unit 2 in May 2013, and Unit 3 in September 2014. (Table courtesy of World Nuclear Association)

wna UAE reactors

According to ENEC when all four units are in operation they will supply about 25% of the nation’s electricity and avoid the emission of 12 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.

The plants will also free up oil and especially natural gas supplies for export.  Electricity from the reactors will also be used to ramp up a finished goods aluminum industry. Aluminum smelters require significant supplies of reliable electrical power to transform raw bauxite ore into finished aluminum products.

According to English language business news media, the UAE has announced plans to build a $3 billion facility for this purpose to begin operations in 2017. State-owned Emirates Global Aluminium plans to spend the money to build the United Arab Emirates’ first alumina refinery in Abu Dhabi, chief executive Abdulla Kalban said.

“We are building the refinery to secure our own important materials,” Kalban said, adding that the refinery would produce 2 million tonnnes of alumina annually in an initial phase and an additional 2 million tonnes in a second phase.

The first of four nuclear reactors being built in the UAE is expected to come online in mid-2017.

Jordan in negotiations with investors for two Rosatom VVERs

The government of Jordan is seeking investors for equity shares in the 51% it will need to finance in the two $5 billion apiece Rosatom supplier VVER nuclear reactors to be built in that country.

According to the World Nuclear Association, the site for the two new reactors is Qasr-Amra in Al-Azraq province, about 70km south east of Amman. In April 2014 an expert team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the region to evaluate studies on the proposed site, which is some 70 km from the cooling water source at Samra, and well away (100 km) from a fault line.

In October 2013 The Jordanian Atomic Energy organization announced that Rosatom will contribute 49.9% of the project’s $10 billion cost, with the state-owned Jordan Nuclear Power Co (JNPC) being responsible for the controlling 50.1%. The plant will be provided on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis. Rosatom will supply all the fuel and take back the used fuel.

WNA reports that in September 2014 JAEC signed a project development agreement with Rusatom. The objective is to sign a final construction contract within two years. The Jordanian government has said it does not intend to make a final investment decision until late in 2015 or sometime in 2016. A construction contract is still expected in 2016. Target date for operation of the first unit is 2024.

Critics of the plan say that the Jordanian plan is missing the needed investment in the regional power grid to wheel the power to customers.  Some have said Jordan would be better off investing in small modular reactors with a power range of 100-300 MW to accommodate the existing power line infrastructure. The Jordanian parliament has raised objections to the plan saying that the government has not been transparent with the legislature in explaining its dealings with the Russian export agencies.

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