July 5, 2010 / 4:08 PM / 9 years ago

Saudi readies nuclear energy agreement with France

RIYADH, July 5 (Reuters) - Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and France are preparing to sign an agreement on cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, Saudi state media said on Monday.

Both countries have been in talks for more than one year but have yet to disclose details about the cooperation.

The Gulf Arab state has said it is looking at various energy sources to satisfy rising domestic demand and has set up a nuclear research centre, the King Abdullah Atomic City.

The Saudi government has mandated the head of the research centre to sign a draft agreement for cooperating with France on peaceful development of nuclear energy, state news agency SPA said after a weekly cabinet meeting.

It gave no details or time frame.

Demand for power in the biggest Arab economy grew last year by more than 8 percent and is expected to grow to more than 60,000 megawatt (MW) by 2020.

The Gulf Arab state is investing $80 billion to boost installed power generation capacity to around 67,000 MW by 2020, up from 46,000 MW now.

Saudi Arabia aims to increase the use of crude oil for power generation to 2.5 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) on a daily average by 2020 from 1.5 million BOE in 2009, Alawaji told Reuters earlier this month.

In April, neighbouring Kuwait agreed with France to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The United Arab Emirates was the first Gulf Arab country to take the nuclear route to meet rising electricity demand.

In December, it awarded a deal worth up to $40 billion, one of the largest ever awarded in the Middle East, to a South Korean consortium to build and operate four nuclear reactors on its soil. [ID:nLDE5BQ021]

The UAE, the world’s third-biggest oil exporter, has plans to build its first nuclear reactor by 2017. It will also host the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) newly-created headquarters.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — an alliance of six Arab states including Saudi Arabia — said in 2007 it was studying a joint nuclear energy programme and had been in touch with the U.N. atomic energy watchdog about cooperating over such a scheme. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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