Saudi Arabia, South Korea in nuclear cooperation deal

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:03am EST

KHOBAR, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has signed a bilateral agreement with South Korea for cooperation on the development of nuclear energy as the world's top oil exporter seeks to diversify its energy mix to meet rising power demand, the Saudi government said on Tuesday.

The agreement calls for cooperation in research and development, including building nuclear power plants and research reactors, as well as training, safety and waste management, said the statement by King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE).

This is the third nuclear agreement Saudi Arabia signed following similar deals with France and Argentina.

The city, established in 2010, also said it is currently in talks with China, Russia, Czech Republic, Britain and the United States to negotiate "further cooperation."

Although it sits on the world's biggest oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is struggling to keep up with rapidly rising power demand expected to triple by 2032 requiring additional energy plants with total installed power production capacity of around 80 gigawatts (GW).

The kingdom plans to turn to solar and eventually nuclear energy to reduce its need to burn fuel oil for electricity and preserve oil for lucrative export markets. It may build up to 16 nuclear power reactors by 2030, an official at K.A.Care said in June.

Meanwhile, South Korea aims to increase its reliance on nuclear energy, undeterred by Japan's nuclear disaster, its deputy minister for energy and resources policy said in April.

South Korea has 21 reactors in operation with nuclear power accounting for 31.3 percent as of end-2010, according to latest data from the South Korean government. In December 2009, the United Arab Emirates awarded a South Korean consortium a contract to build four nuclear power plants worth $20.4 billion.

(Reporting by Reem Shamseddine, additional reporting by Cho Mee-young in Seoul)

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