According to foreign news outlets, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a new nuclear power plant construction project led by American companies such as Westinghouse Electric Company in return for allowing Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium. Earlier, the U.S. President promised to rebuild the value chain-collapsed U.S. nuclear power industry. Westinghouse Electric Company, one of the leaders in the industry, was acquired by Toshiba in 2006 due to its financial difficulties. The company is trying to rebuild itself after being sold to a Canadian PEF this month.
Under the circumstances, South Korean nuclear power plant builders are expressing concerns over the future of their business in Saudi Arabia. Until recently, they were painting a rosy picture about their business in the Saudi Arabian market after H.E. Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, head of the Executive Affairs Authority (EAA) of Abu Dhabi, visited South Korea to promise that a large number of projects would be led by South Korean companies.
Uranium enrichment has been a long-cherished goal of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, head of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE), said at an IAEA conference that Saudi Arabia would be self-sufficient in terms of nuclear fuel supply by producing enriched uranium on its own. Although the U.S. is unlikely to let Saudi Arabia produce highly-enriched uranium that can lead to the use of nuclear weapons, a higher uranium enrichment ratio is still very attractive for Saudi Arabia with the country competing with Iran for hegemony in the Middle East.
Some point out that Saudi Arabia recently decided to bring in the U.S. THAAD system earlier than scheduled and that Saudi Arabia is aiming to get some incentives related to weapon purchase from the U.S. by supporting the U.S. with regard to nuclear power plant construction. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia is planning to choose a couple of countries in April this year, from the United States, South Korea, China, France and Russia, as the final bidders for its upcoming nuclear power plant construction project. South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry & Energy Baek Woon-kyu visits Saudi Arabia next month in this regard.