France's EDF interested in Saudi nuclear energy programme, CEO says

More than three-fourths of the utility's power generation portfolio is nuclear

The 800MW third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park will be completed by year-end, said EDF chief Jean Bernard Levy. Pawan Singh / The National 
The 800MW third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park will be completed by year-end, said EDF chief Jean Bernard Levy. Pawan Singh / The National 

French utility EDF, one of the world’s biggest operators of atomic power plants, is looking to participate in the Saudi nuclear programme as it looks to add more personnel to its growing business in the Middle East, its chairman and chief executive said.

"The kingdom has opened a request for information and we’re interested to operate with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to build nuclear units,” Jean-Bernard Levy told The National in Abu Dhabi.

"We have been pre-selected and we have a team working under the instructions of the Saudi government. This is for the first reactors that will begin in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporting country, is looking to kickstart its nuclear programme and aims to enrich uranium, for which it has 5 per cent of the world’s deposits, the kingdom’s new energy minister said on Monday.

"We want to go through the full resources, producing uranium, using uranium. We’re interested in making sure our energy mix is comprehensive,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud said.

Saudi Arabia is looking to add 17 Gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2040. The kingdom is looking to bring two reactors with a combined capacity of 3.2GW online within the next decade.

Earlier this week, US deputy secretary of energy Dan Brouillette said Washington would pursue a '123 agreement' regarding the sale of US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

A 123 agreement refers to a section within the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which mandates a pact for co-operation as a prerequisite for any nuclear deals between Washington and another government.

State-backed EDF has around 78 per cent of its power generation portfolio in nuclear energy, operating 58 active reactors in France. The utility also develops renewable schemes, which account for 12 per cent of its operations.

In the Middle East, EDF is developing Saudi Arabia’s first-ever wind scheme in a consortium with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar. The $500 million scheme reached financial close in July with construction expected to start soon.

“We hope that within the next 18 months construction will be underway and we can maybe start operations in a reasonable timeframe,” said Mr Levy.

In the UAE, EDF is engaged in the 800MW third phase of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum solar park. The utility is ahead of schedule, with 200MW of the scheme completed and the remaining 600MW due to be completed by year-end, according to the chairman.

Globally, the French company is looking at “mid-scale acquisitions” in “emerging technologies” around storage, e-mobility and networks to increase its market access, added Mr Levy.

On Wednesday, Masdar and EDF signed an agreement to form a joint venture in energy efficiency.

The energy services company, also known as an Esco, will target smaller-utility scale renewable projects, with a capacity of less than 50 megawatts, in the GCC region as well as other countries.

Updated: September 12, 2019 06:30 PM


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