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Trump’s disturbing willingness to sell nuclear technologies without the usual restrictions, to Saudi Arabia

U.S. To Boost Saudi Nuclear Power Development. Lobe Log., DECEMBER 14, 2017,  Almost a decade has passed since President George W.  Bush promised that the United States would help Saudi Arabia develop commercial nuclear energy plants. When he visited Riyadh in May 2008, he pledged to sign a “memorandum of understanding,” or MOU, committing the United States to “assist the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to develop civilian nuclear power for use in medicine, industry and power generation” and “establish a comprehensive framework for cooperation in the development of environmentally sustainable, safe, and secure nuclear energy.”

In return, Saudi Arabia, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, would also join the worldwide Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-sponsored program to confront the threat of nuclear proliferation.

The text of that MOU has never been made public, and nothing much happened as a result of it until last week. Then, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, after meeting senior officials in the kingdom, urged the Saudis to choose a U.S.-based vendor, Westinghouse Electric Co., to participate in the nuclear energy program to which the Saudis have long been committed.

The Energy Department’s official statement about Perry’s talks with Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources, did not use the word “nuclear,” but numerous reports from the region said the Saudis heard Perry’s arguments for Westinghouse and were receptive to them.

“We heard that message that … ‘we want the United States to be our partner in this’,” Perry told the Reuters news agency. Westinghouse spokeswoman Sarah Casella said in a statement to Bloomberg News that “Westinghouse is pleased that Saudi Arabia has decided to pursue nuclear energy. We are fully participating in their request for information and are pleased to provide the AP1000 plant, the industry’s most advanced technology.” The Energy Department did not respond to several requests to go beyond its original statement or to confirm Perry’s reported remarks, but neither has it denied them.

There was a time when the words “nuclear” and “Saudi Arabia” in the same sentence would set off alarms all over Washington, because any such development in Saudi Arabia is bound to raise fears that the Saudis would use their program to develop nuclear weapons to counter what they fear is happening in Iran……….

Saudi Arabia has discussed nuclear development with China, Russia, and France, among other potential suppliers.

Under U.S. law, Westinghouse or any other U.S.-based vendor can sell material and technology to Saudi Arabia only after the two countries negotiate a nuclear cooperation agreement, known as a 123 Agreement for the section of the law setting the requirement. The U.S.-Abu Dhabi agreement is known in the industry as the “gold standard,” because the government of the United Arab Emirates agreed to forgo both ends of the nuclear fuel cycle–it will neither enrich its own uranium nor reprocess its spent fuel to extract the plutonium.

The Saudis have made clear that they do not want to accept the same restrictions because their country has extensive uranium resources, which they want to process domestically. In articles in the trade press in 2010, an executive of a Finnish firm that was consulting with the Saudis on their program said that it could eventually include enrichment of uranium.

That was a non-starter while Barack Obama was president, but reports of Perry’s commitment to expedite an agreement have ignited speculation that the United States is preparing to soften its terms to accommodate the Saudis on this point, especially because of the close ties that have developed between the Trump administration and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler…….

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said in a statement that “The Trump administration’s willingness bend key rules and standards designed to restrict the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies that can be used to make nuclear weapons to in order to help U.S. companies profit from nuclear commerce with Saudi Arabia is  disturbing and counterproductive.” He said Congress, “which will have to review any such agreement, should insist on the highest possible nonproliferation standards for nuclear commerce, especially in a troubled and unstable region.”……..


December 16, 2017 - Posted by | marketing, Saudi Arabia, USA


  1. Westinghouse may be US based but it is owned by Toshiba Japan.

    Comment by miningawareness | December 16, 2017 | Reply

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