IAEA and China assist Saudia Arabia to tap local uranium resources

Chinese companies proactively searching for uranium in Saudi Arabia

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has been working in parallel with Chinese officials to help Saudi Arabia exploit uranium — the key ingredient for nuclear power and weapons — despite its inspectors being frozen out of the kingdom.

The International Atomic Energy Agency published “Technical Cooperation Report for 2019” ahead of its annual conference next week showing the Vienna-based organization assisting Saudi efforts to make nuclear fuel. The Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, affiliated with the IAEA, has been prospecting for uranium in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier in August of 2020, there were news that Saudi Arabia has constructed a facility for extracting uranium “yellowcake” from ore with help from China.

According to the officials, the facility is located in a sparsely populated area in the north-west of the Kingdom. The Saudi Energy Ministry said in a statement, however, that it “categorically denies” having built the facility in that area, although it acknowledged that it has contracts with China on uranium exploration within certain other areas of the country.

In 2017, The Saudi Geological Survey (SGS)  has started a survey to explore and assess uranium and thorium resources in the Hail region of the Al Hail Province. The project, which is being carried out in cooperation with the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE)  and the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), aims to explore uranium and thorium deposits for peaceful use.

During the launch of the project in December 2017, SGS president Zohair Nawab said the Kingdom had no intentions to use nuclear energy for military purposes. The exploration survey is intended for mineral wealth exploration, power generation, seawater desalination, and developing renewable energy sources, he added.

In March 2017, SGS and CNNC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Beijing for bilateral cooperation in mineral resources. The two companies signed another MoU in September 2017 to explore uranium and thorium resources.

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