Saudis' Bin Ladin Group set for nuclear deal with French firm

Friday, February 11, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia, which plans to reduce fossil fuel consumption, intends to sign a major nuclear deal with France.

Executives said the Saudi kingdom would sign a partnership agreement with France's state-controlled Areva for the construction of a nuclear energy reactor. They said the nuclear and solar energy cooperation agreement would team Areva with the Bin Ladin Group, whose family includes Al Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden.

"We think that on solar thermal in Saudi Arabia there's an important market, and we are partnering with Saudi Bin Ladin Group to develop this," Areva chief executive officer Anne Lauvergeon said.

In a Jan. 24 briefing, Ms. Lauvergeon did not provide details of the agreement. Areva, 90 percent of which is controlled by the French government, has been lobbying to construct the first nuclear reactor in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has acknowleged the agreement. Officials said Riyad wants to significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption and diversify energy resources.

"You want to have an energy mix to save oil, and this oil we can leverage prices so we can sell it abroad to build these facilities," Hashim Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewables Energy, said. "Nuclear would be adequate for the base load. We'll use renewables to add more capacity. There are some variations. Gas and oil will have to continue to help."

Yamani said nuclear and renewable energy would reduce Saudi dependence on fossil fuel by 2050 as well as increase crude oil exports. He did not say when the kingdom, which in 2010 consumed 3.4 million barrels per day of oil equivalent, would build its first nuclear power plant.

"Saudi will need to invest upfront in nuclear energy, but the oil saved will contribute significantly to the costs," Yamani said.

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