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Radiation safety watchdog to patch budget shortfall with million-euro Saudi consultancy deal

Finland's radiation safety watchdog STUK has signed a consultancy agreement covering two proposed nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia.

STUK's Saudi cooperation operates from the capital Riyadh, which is home to seven million residents. Image: Jamal Nasrallah / EPA

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK says it has signed an agreement with the Saudi Arabian government valued at millions of euros annually to provide consultancy services as the country constructs two new nuclear power facilities.

STUK director general Petteri Tiippana described the deal as significant, adding that STUK will be using the funds from the lucrative deal with the Saudis to make up for budget deficits arising from deep funding cuts that formed part of government's austerity programme.

"The Saudi agreement will be a welcome addition to stabilise the economy in the wake of budget cuts in recent years. The income has been used for skills development and upgrading radiation safety research in Finland," Tiippana added.

The agency's cooperation partner in Saudi Arabia is the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, which is located in the capital Riyadh. The STUK head said that Saudi officials settled on Finland after reviewing officials and regulatory models in different countries. "On that basis they came to Finland and asked if STUK could help them," he recalled.

The Saudi government has not yet decided on a contractor for the proposed nuclear power projects. What they do know, is that one of the plants will be as large as the proposed Fennovoima facility slated for Pyhäjoki in northwest Finland, while small modular reactors are also planned for power production.

STUK began its cooperation with Saudi Arabia in 2007. Tiippana said that the oil-rich state has become one of its most important international customers, adding that STUK's reputation as one of the world's most rigorous nuclear safety authorities won over the Saudis.

The agency provides services to other states, but it has decided to focus on capacity building with Saudi Arabian officials. "We support ministry-level officials to help develop functional and independent officials," Tiippana said.

Before landing the Saudi deal, STUK worked on smaller projects in several different countries. "We still have smaller projects ongoing in Morocco, Vietnam and Indonesia, but we are mainly focusing on this major client," Tiippana explained.

STUK recently rapped the Fennovoima power consortium that is building the Pyhäjoki nuclear power plant for its failure to improve its safety culture ahead of start of construction on the facility.