Saudi Arabia To Start Building Nuclear Power Plants ‘Very Soon’

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Saudi Arabia could start building nuclear plants within 12 months, the country’s energy minister told an oil conference.

“We will be selecting sites very soon that we will reserve for our first nuclear energy power plant,” Khalid Al-Falih, the country’s energy minister, said at the Oil and Money conference in London Wednesday. “We hope within the next 12 months that we will be announcing concrete plans.”

Al-Falih claims that nuclear energy, along with wind and solar power will play a “very significant part” of Saudi Arabia’s energy mix. Russia and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement last year to work together on “peaceful” nuclear energy projects. The stated purpose of these reactors is to generate electricity, power desalination plants and reduce domestic oil consumption so Saudi Arabia can sell the oil abroad.

Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 nuclear power plants from Russia for $100 billion despite terrorism concerns, according to a Monday announcement from a government-controlled nuclear power company. The reactors will be built by the Russian government controlled Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Cooperation.

The nearby United Arab Emirates is building the Middle East’s  first nuclear plant, which will house four other reactors to should be completed in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. When the plant is finished, it will provide a quarter of the country’s electricity, generating 5,600 megawatts of power.

Both nations’ have a long history of terrorist attacks within its borders, and the country itself has been accused of directly funding Islamic terrorism. The planned reactors would be incredibly vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Neither country’s new reactors would not produce the weapons-grade plutonium necessary to make a nuclear weapon, but materials from them could be used to create dirty bombs. A dirty bomb combines radioactive material with conventional explosives that could contaminate the local area with high radiation levels for long periods of time and cause mass panic, though it would be millions of times weaker than an actual nuclear device. The Islamic State wants to steal this kind of radioactive material for a dirty bomb.

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