Shaw Group, Toshiba Corp., and Exelon Corp. unit Exelon Nuclear Partners on Monday announced an agreement to jointly pursue opportunities to design, engineer, build, and operate new nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia.

Under terms of the agreement, Toshiba and Shaw would provide design, engineering, procurement, and construction, while Exelon would provide operations and related services for the projects. The group plans to propose Toshiba’s advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), though they said they are “capable” of using Westinghouse’s third-generation AP1000 technology.

Saudi Arabia recently indicated interest in funding commercial nuclear power. This April, King Abdullah issued  a royal order establishing the King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy, a high-level organization that will oversee all aspects of a nuclear power industry in Saudi Arabia.

"Shaw, Toshiba and Westinghouse are working collaboratively with customers to build four nuclear units in China and six new nuclear units in the U.S., the first contracts awarded in the U.S. in nearly 30 years for new nuclear power plants," said J.M. Bernhard Jr., Shaw’s chairman, president, and chief executive officer. "The addition of Exelon, which operates the largest nuclear power fleet in the United States, creates a team that is unmatched in its ability to offer a portfolio of technology, construction and operations in Saudi Arabia."

As the companies noted in a joint release, for any U.S. company to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Saudi Arabian governments must negotiate a framework agreement that meets specific requirements under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act. The framework must be followed by U.S. congressional review of the agreement.

Execution of any business arrangements for a Japanese company with a Saudi Arabian entity is also subject to the future conclusion of an Agreement for Cooperation between Japanese and Saudi Arabian governments concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

The news comes on the heels of an announcement by six Japanese companies to establish a joint venture to propose new nuclear projects abroad. Toshiba was part of that consortium. The companies are Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric, Kansai Electric, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Bloomberg reported in June that Toshiba plans to double nuclear projects abroad by 2015 and invest nearly $550 million a year in its power business. Yasuharu Igarashi, senior vice president and head of the power systems division, told the agency that the company would target countries planning nuclear power expansions in the near future, such as the U.S. and the UK.

Sources: Shaw Group, POWERnews, Bloomberg