Saudi Arabia to Award Nuclear Reactor Contract by End of 2018; U.S. Set to Miss Out

Saudi Arabia plans to award a construction contract for its first nuclear reactors by the end of 2018, a senior government official said on Tuesday as reported in Reuters.

“With sponsorship from the highest levels in the state, the contract will be signed by the end of 2018,” Maher al Odan, the chief atomic energy officer of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, told a news conference in the capital Riyadh.

The United States does not have a full nuclear cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which must be initiated by the executive branch before reaching Congress for approval, U.S. companies stand to lose out big to international firms in the forthcoming Saudi nuclear bonanza.

Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act requires “the conclusion of a specific agreement for significant transfers of nuclear material, equipment, or components from the United States to another nation,” which is not yet completed. Despite a  visit to Saudi Arabia in November 2012 by a U.S. nuclear industry delegation, including Exelon Generation and others, a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia remains elusive. The U.S. does have a 123 agreement with the United Arab Emirates.

Last month, Reuters also reported that Saudi Arabia is “expected to launch a tender process for its first nuclear reactors as early as next month and will reach out to potential vendors from countries including South Korea, France and China,” citing industry sources.

The Kingdom is eying “two plants with a total capacity of up to 2.8 gigawatts” by the end of 2018.