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Concern in USA Congress over Saudi Arabia’s real aims in going for nuclear energy

Congress skeptical of Saudi nuclear energy demands, AL-Monitor 

After years of informal negotiations, the United States is facing mounting pressure to reach a civilian nuclear agreement with Saudi Arabia or risk getting shut out of the Gulf kingdom’s lucrative energy market.

But Riyadh’s refusal to give up on certain capabilities that could be used in a nuclear weapons program has caused concern among lawmakers that the Donald Trump administration may be too keen to strike a deal.

Under Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, Congress must review any agreement to supply a foreign state with US nuclear technology. While the Trump administration has yet to publicly rule out any concessions, Saudi insistence on retaining the right to enrich uranium and to reprocess plutonium faces significant roadblocks on Capitol Hill.

“I think we have made clear — not that it was necessary — that a 123 agreement that in any way contemplated an enrichment program is going to face a lot of opposition in Congress,” a congressional source familiar with the debate told Al-Monitor. “So I just don’t think that the executive branch is going to go there.”……….

Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Saudi Arabia and discussed Riyadh’s solicitation for bids to build its first two nuclear reactors late last year. Soon after, Bloomberg reported that the administration was actively considering a 123 agreement that would grant the Saudis wide latitude to pursue uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing.

Nonproliferation champions in Congress have been pushing back since. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Saudi ambassador last month that he would force a floor vote and debate on any proposed 123 agreement with Riyadh.

“It seems crazy to loosen important nonproliferation standards just to try to secure an uncertain commercial deal,” Markey told the Journal………

“Members of the Saudi royal family have suggested that they may have an interest in nuclear weapons at some point in the future,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, told Al-Monitor. “There is considerable concern in Congress about any nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia that does not somehow make it harder for the Saudis to acquire enrichment and reprocessing technology in the future.”


February 22, 2018 - Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA

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