The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, launched a project Monday to build the kingdom's first nuclear research reactor, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The nuclear project is among the seven strategic projects also covering such fields as the aircraft industry, renewable energy, atomic energy, genetic medicine, water desalination and the aircraft industry launched during a visit to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KAST).
The two most significant projects include a nuclear research reactor and a center for the development of aircraft structures.
The new reactor will help Saudi Arabia conduct research develop technology for the country’s burgeoning nuclear industry.
The design of the reactor has been developed by KACST scientists with the help of international experts. Construction of the reactor is already underway and expected to be completed by the end of next year.
It will follow all the safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The reactor is designed to use uranium oxide fuel with 2.1 percent enrichment.
Saudi Arabia, one of the world's largest oil-exporting countries, has been stepping up plans to develop a civilian nuclear energy capability.
Last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the Saudi government had invited proposals for the construction of two nuclear power reactors to boost the country's energy mix.
The kingdom is considering building 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors, making it one of the biggest projects globally.
According to Reuters news agency, Saudi Arabia is aiming to reduce the amount of crude it burns at home to generate electricity to allow it to sell more of it overseas.
If the kingdom proceeds with the plan, it would become the second Gulf Arab state to launch a nuclear power project after the United Arab Emirates, which is building four South Korea-designed reactors.