Saudi cabinet endorses nuclear accord with France

Saudi Arabia's government endorsed a nuclear energy pact signed between the kingdom and France two years ago, as the kingdom vies to diversify its energy mix and meet growing power demand, Arab News reported.

The cabinet's decision follows talks between Saudi officials with French Minister of Industry Arnaud Montebourg last month in Riyadh.

In 2011, France signed an agreement to offer atomic know-how and training for local staff in the kingdom and the use and transfer of knowledge of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The accord "allows Saudi experts to study the French technology options, their financial requirements and implications for developing qualified national human resources," according to the agreement.

The world's largest oil producer aims to decrease the use of its domestic oil to generate electricity and plans to build up its nuclear capacity by 2032 with about 17 nuclear reactors, as its population grows and it invests more than $500bn to expand its infrastructure.

The kingdom has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Argentina and South Korea as well.

"Saudi Arabia will only deploy the most advanced and thoroughly tested technologies, paying maximum attention to safety, security and safeguards of the highest international standards," according to the website of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s biggest economy, is spending US$219bn this year on education, healthcare, social benefits and infrastructure.

In a report in September, Citigroup said the kingdom could become an oil importer by 2030 if the country's oil consumption grows in line with peak power demand.

Saudi Arabia's economy is set to slow this year to an estimated 4.2 percent from about 6 percent in 2012, according to International Monetary Fund projections.

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