While lacking proven uranium deposits, the country’s Tabuk region has low-grade amounts of uranium and thorium. However, Saudi Arabia has significant phosphate deposits, which some believe could be exploited. The country’s two largest deposits reportedly measure about 750 million metric tons, averaging between 19 and 21 percent P2O5. Mined by the Saudi Arabian Mining Company and the Saudi Basic Industrial Corporation, fertilizer plants at the Al Jubail Industrial City produce about 4.5 metric tons of P2O5 annually. While extraction of uranium from phosphates can be an expensive proposition, the phosphates could provide a ready supply of uranium for the country’s nuclear desalination plants. Then, it would be a matter of uranium enrichment, of which both the Russians and the French would be scrambling to provide the Kingdom.
While the Saudi program may not directly impact world uranium prices, the Kingdom’s decision to advance its nuclear program, beyond the research and medical stage, would signal the entire world that nuclear energy programs will be a primary growth sector for the next fifty to one hundred years. Should the Saudis also commence desalination projects using dual-use nuclear reactors, this could change the entire landscape of the water situation for the Middle East as well as Africa. And it would most likely spark a significant stampede of the Kingdom’s neighbors into the global nuclear renaissance.