Japan offers help building Saudi nuclear power plants

Kyodo, JIJI

Trade and industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi has extended an offer to help Saudi Arabia build nuclear power plants.

In a meeting in Riyadh on Saturday with Waleed Hussain Abulfaraj, vice head of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, Motegi suggested the two countries sign an accord to that end at an early date, officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

Motegi’s proposal is believed to be the first time Japan has shown a clear intention to assist Saudi Arabia in adopting atomic energy since the Fukushima crisis began in 2011.

Waleed said he hoped to make use of Japanese technology and knowhow to build 16 nuclear reactors by 2030 that will provide 20 percent of its electricity needs, the officials said.

Riyadh plans to build the atomic plants to avert electricity shortages that could be caused by its growing population and to conserve its crude oil resources.

Japan and Saudi Arabia, however, have not yet concluded the nuclear cooperation pact needed for Tokyo to allow the export of such technology. One of the officials said the accord will take time, even if the two sides sign a document aimed at aiding technology transfers, for instance, by training Saudi engineers how to manage atomic power.

At a meeting later in the day with Deputy Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman and other Saudi officials, Motegi called on Saudi Arabia to maintain cooperative bilateral ties so Japan can receive stable supplies of oil even during emergencies.

Abdulaziz responded positively, noting that Riyadh has already aided such efforts. The fourth son of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Abdulaziz is deemed one of the nation’s key energy officials.

The two sides also decided to extend by five years their industrial cooperation framework launched in April 2007.

The meeting was attended by representatives from major Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which explained its plan to build a local plant for repairing and maintaining gas turbines, and Mitsubishi Rayon Co., which said it will construct a facility to turn out products using acrylic resin.