Russia Submits Bid for Saudi Arabia’s Twin Nuclear Reactors

  • Russia Submits Bid for Saudi Arabia’s Twin Nuclear Reactors
  • ThorCon Partners with Bureau Veritas to Advance its 500 MW MSR
  • Philippines / Utility Applying For US Grant For SMR Feasibility Study
  • Barakah / Unit 3 Reaches Full Power With Commercial Operation Set For ‘Early 2023’

Russia Submits Bid for Saudi Arabia’s Twin Nuclear Reactors

(NucNet & NeutronBytes) Russia has entered the bidding process for the contract to build Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power station, deputy prime minister Alexander Novak said.

The bid will likely be for two light water design commercial nuclear reactors similar to the units being built at Akkuyu in Turkey. Rosatom has also broken ground at a site west of Cairo to build four new reactors of the same design. Both countries are benefiting from very favorable financial terms. Russia will likely submit a bid to Saudi Arabia for two of its 1200 VVER light water reactors. Unlike Turkey or Egypt, if Saudi Arabia accepts the Russian bid, the oil rich country will likely pay the full sticker price. Additionally, Russia will likely insist that Saudi Arabia lock in a commitment to buy fuel for the VVERs for their service life of at least 60 years.


Minister Novak was quoted in Russian state media as saying state nuclear corporation Rosatom would take part in the tender. Note: Novak was Russia’s Chief of the Ministry of Energy 2012-2020.

“Paperwork has been submitted for the tender to build a nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia,” he said, quoted by Interfax agency.

In September Saudi Arabia began the process to issue a license to build the station, which could cost about $14 billion (€13bn). The tender was released without fanfare last June. Additional bids are likely to come from China, France, and South Korea.

In April, Saudi Arabia established a national nuclear energy company to develop and operate nuclear facilities. Riyadh said the Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company will participate in nuclear projects locally and internationally.

Riyadh wants to build two large-scale nuclear power plants. Saudi Arabia has considered three separate sites and is likely to build both reactors at the same location. In November of 2011, KA-CARE hired WorleyParsons to conduct site surveys to determine the best possible sites for development of the nuclear power generating stations.

In September of 2013 three sites were identified as the primary options, given their proximity to  water sources to supply reactor coolant, their position on the KSA’s electrical grid, and their location near electricity-intensive consumers, such as desalination plants. The identified locations are Jubail on the Gulf Coast and Rabuk and Jizan on the Red Sea.

Riyadh, the capitol is 264 miles west of Jubail the Persian Gulf and the two sites on the Red Sea are 450 miles to the east. Due to the lack of nearby sea water for desalination, it is unlikely that any site near the capitol would be chosen for the reactors.

The desalination plants will be built adjacent to the coastal sites housing the reactors to access seawater. Potable water from the plants will be shipped by pipeline to locations throughout Saudi Arabia. The nuclear reactors will free up natural gas for export which is currently being burned to power the nation.

No Agreement With Beijing Or Seoul

Saudi Arabia has not yet signed a deal as it continues its search for a supplier of the station. Press reports said no agreement was signed during China president Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Riyadh, although “energy security” was on the agenda.

This followed a visit by Prince Mohammed, often known by his initials MBS, to South Korea in November, increasing hopes that Seoul would win the lucrative contract to supply reactors.

Now that MBS has gone to South Korea, and not inked a deal, and since he has just finished hosting China, and not inked a deal, it follows that he is doing what any good commercial negotiator working on a multi-billion-dollar deal would do, it is to not accept the first offer from bidders.

It is significant that the timing of the Russian submission of its bid comes right after MBS met with China and South Korea, two bidders, but did not sign a deal with either of them.

While France’s EDF is intensely interested in submitting a bid for the two reactors, its track record of significant schedule delays and cost overruns in Finland and France may dim its prospects for winning the business.

There is little or no chance than Westinghouse will submit a bid due to the fact the US does not have a 123 Agreement with Riyadh. The agreement is necessary to guarantee the peaceful use of nuclear energy technology. A 123 agreement can involve what is known as a “gold standard” commitment in which a country forgoes uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing, which are two pathways to making nuclear weapons.

A 123 Agreement with the United Arab Emirates forecloses uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. As a result South Korea has built four 1400 MW commercial nuclear reactors in the UAE which include some US technology.  Two of the four units are in revenue service. The third unit reached full power this past week and will be commissioned in 2023. The fourth unit is under construction.

Saudi Arabia has refused to consider signing a 123 agreement with the US arguing that it is its right to enrich uranium, a precursor to making weapons grade materials for nuclear bombs. It is unlikely that it can be persuaded to change that policy.

Saudi Arabia says it needs to be able to develop a deterrent, if needed, if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. In recent months Iran has boosted the level of uranium enrichment to 60% U235. While less than the 80% or more levels of U235 needed to make a bomb, it would not take much to produce nuclear material at that level. Saudi Arabia could easily obtain uranium enrichment technology from Pakistan.  China has been assisting Saudi Arabia in exploiting its domestic uranium resources by supporting development of a hard rock uranium mill that would produce yellowcake.

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ThorCon Partners with Bureau Veritas to Advance its 500 MW MSR

bv logoBureau Veritas (BV), a world leader in testing, inspection and certification, and nuclear power technology developer ThorCon have entered an agreement for the Technology Qualification and the subsequent development of a 500MW molten salt nuclear power floating barge for operations in Indonesia.

BV has been selected to support ThorCon through the technology qualification process, both for the nuclear reactor itself and for its encapsulation (enclosed safe compartmentalization allowing the replacement of depleted fuel) and integration with the hull systems.

Experts from Bureau Veritas’ Nuclear Certification Department and from the Marine & Offshore Division will collaborate throughout the process. A key area of work will be to identify the applicable standards, codes and Class Rules, potential gaps with those currently available and the development if needed of new guidance notes and rules.

thorncon nuclear barges

The scope of the agreement also includes the potential development and deployment phases once the technology qualification process is completed. At this stage, it is anticipated that the technology qualification process will take a minimum of three years and if successful, the deployment phase would require an additional two years.

bankaThorCon has entered into discussion with the Indonesian island province of Bangka-Belitung, the State Electricity Company PLN, and the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency BAPETEN regarding potential sites for the demonstration and the final installation of a 500MW power plant.

About ThrCon’s MSR

The concept developed by ThorCon is a molten salt fission reactor (MSR). Unlike current nuclear reactors, the ThorCon reactor operates at low pressure and uses liquid fuel. The liquid fuel enables much higher operating temperatures, leading to greater efficiency while also enabling completely passive safety (requiring no action from the operator nor intervention on the power source to stop the reaction). (Slide presentation – PDF file)

thorcon msr

The 500 MW power plant will be built in a world-class shipyard experienced in high-quality, cost-competitive steel-working. ThorCon will rely on the yard for detailed design, production scheduling, and much of the equipment purchasing functions. The shipyard will be ThorCon’s engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contractor.

Spain’s Empresarios Agrupados (EAI) has signed an architect engineering contract for ThorCon’s 500 MWe TMSR advanced nuclear power plant for Indonesia. The TMSR-500 will demonstrate a way to solve Indonesia’s energy needs with a non-intermittent source of power that is carbon-free, low cost and safe. ThorCon Power TMSR –IAEA Aris Data (PDF file 34 pages)

The TMSR-500 will be built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering at its yard in Okpo, South Korea. The use of a modern shipyard will achieve huge savings in time and cost while also improving quality of construction. ThorCon estimates total construction time will be 24-months.

The expensive, massive, precision supercritical steam turbine-generator must be pre-ordered to achieve the one-year shipyard build time. ThorCon will be towed to the Indonesia near-shore site prepared with breakwaters and seawater cooling piping and a connection to the PLN electric power grid.

The 500 MW fission power plant will be integrated within a floating barge hull and then towed to a shallow water site before being ballasted to rest on the seabed. The technology will then deliver energy to the power grid to meet land-based energy needs. ThorCon plants will be designed to be mass produced, which will support the transition to carbon free and reliable energy.

& & &

Philippines / Utility Applying For US Grant For SMR Feasibility Study

(NucNet) The Philippines’ largest electricity distributor has said it is in talks with the United States about possibly using small modular reactors (SMRs).

PhillipinesmapThe head of the privately owned Manila Electric Company, or Meralco, said the utility is applying for a grant from the US government to conduct a feasibility study for SMRs.

According to local press reports, Meralco said SMRs’ size and reliability make the technology “suitable for an archipelagic topography such as the Philippines,” an archipelago nation of more than 7,000 islands, many with unreliable power supply.

“We are applying [for] a grant from USTDA (United States Trade and Development Agency) to do a feasibility study for SMRs (small modular reactors). We’re looking into nuclear,” Ray C. Espinosa, Meralco president and chief executive officer, told reporters at a recent press briefing.

Meralco’s move comes as the country’s president Ferdinand Marcos Jr pushes for alternative sources of energy, including the use of nuclear power.

Separately, the Bloomberg wire service reported the Philippine government is planning to commission a third party next year to evaluate whether the Bataan nuclear power plant, which was mothballed in 1986, is safe to operate and could decide whether to commission the plant by the end of Marcos Jr’s six-year term

At peak capacity, the plant would have covered about 5% of the country’s power needs last year, but commissioning could cost $1bn, according to a 2019 study by Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company.

Construction of the single Westinghouse pressurized water reactor unit, the only nuclear energy facility in Southeast Asia, began in the late 1970s under Ferdinand Marcos’s regime.

Work was stopped due to issues regarding corruption and safety, compounded by concerns following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The US and the Philippines said recently they would open talks on a deal for the Asian nation to build nuclear power plants with American technology.

Diplomatic talks on a civil nuclear-energy agreement, known as a 123 agreement, are reported to have been organized to support US exports to the the Philippines so it can deploy advanced reactor technology to help the country meet its power needs.

Cooperation with South Korea?

The Philippines has renewed its calls for cooperation with South Korea regarding its push to resume the long-stalled project to build a nuclear power plant, Seoul’s industry ministry said.

Mark O. Cojuangco, chief of the Southeast Asian nation’s special commission on nuclear energy, made the request during a meeting with senior South Korean industry official Cheon Young-ghil in Seoul, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy

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Barakah / Unit 3 Reaches Full Power With Commercial Operation Set For ‘Early 2023’

(NucNet) The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said Unit 3 at the Barakah nuclear power station has been brought to 100% of its reactor power capacity for the first time as part of its testing activities.

The milestone brings the third unit of the four-unit Barakah station, the first commercial nuclear power station in the Arab World, one step closer to beginning commercial operation, which is scheduled for early 2023.

Barakah, in the western Al Dhafra region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is one of the largest nuclear energy new-build projects in the world, with four APR1400 units supplied by South Korea. Construction of the first unit began in 2012.

Units 1 and 2 at Barakah are already commercially operational. Unit 1 began commercial operation in April 2021 and Unit 2 in March 2022. Unit 4 is in the final stages of construction.

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