South Korea’s energy ministry says the state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) had been shortlisted to bid for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power plants.
“We were informed by our Saudi counterpart, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, that KEPCO was shortlisted for a nuclear project in Saudi Arabia,” the ministry said in a statement.
The United States, France, China and Russia are also among the contenders in the bid. According to the South Korean ministry, the winner of the tender was expected to be chosen next year.
Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih met Paik Un-gyu, the energy minister of South Korea, in Seoul in May and told journalists afterwards that he was “optimistic” about the Asian nation being on the tender shortlist.
The project will make Saudi Arabia only the second Arab country after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to go nuclear, in a bid to provide its 32 million population with electricity.
Last month, Israel’s energy minister said the United States was not planning to ease nuclear non-proliferation limits on Saudi Arabia in case it struck a nuclear power deal with the Arab kingdom.
In a Reuters interview published on June 27, Yuval Steinitz said Israel vehemently opposed any attempt by Saudi Arabia to clinch nuclear power deals with the US that could relax the so-called “gold standard.”
The standard bans Riyadh from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium.
The US and Saudi Arabia had discussed possible cooperation on nuclear energy under former US President Barack Obama, but those talks were frozen after the Saudis refused to accept the “gold standard.”
But US President Donald Trump, who has been willing to drop that requirement, has already authorized his Energy Secretary Rick Perry to work with Saudi Arabia on a nuclear agreement.
Steinitz, who was in the US capital for the World Gas Conference, noted that Israel would support a Saudi deal for nuclear power only if the kingdom adhered to the “gold standard” protections and purchased uranium from the US.
Israel is the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Ironically, the regime has been accused by its own nuclear experts of selling Saudi Arabia information that would allow the kingdom to develop nuclear weapons.
Despite a lack of formal diplomatic relations, Israel and Saudi Arabia have become de-facto allies against Iran.
Saudi and Israeli officials were delighted when Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on May 8. The kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir even said they were ready to pursue making nuclear weapons after Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement.
Saudi Arabia has said that if the US does not help its bid to build nuclear reactors, it could turn to other international partners.