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The grave danger of USA permissively selling nuclear power to Saudi Arabia

No to a permissive US-Saudi nuclear deal, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Victor Gilinsky, Henry Sokolski , 22 Feb 18, 

A US-Saudi nuclear agreement is said to be in the works. The reported deal would allow Saudi Arabia to buy US nuclear power reactors and—because of Saudi resistance to stricter terms—would be “flexible” on Saudi uranium enrichment and on reprocessing of spent reactor fuel. The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives.

More disappointing, although perhaps not surprising, is that the proposed agreement has the support of more than a few nuclear policy experts outside government. They make a familiar argument regarding nuclear exports: If the United States insists on stricter terms—terms that bar enrichment and reprocessing—the Saudis will turn to Russia or China for nuclear technology, granting these countries greater influence in the Middle East. The United States has been down this road before, in the cases of Iran and India, and it didn’t turn out well. A permissive US-Saudi nuclear agreement would be strategically dangerous for the United States and the region. Congress should not approve such a deal.

What’s driving the administration to cut such an agreement? Let’s set aside the Energy Department’s claims that the Saudis need nuclear power plants and that Westinghouse has a chance to get the business for the United States. First, the Saudis have cheaper energy options—natural gas and renewables. This is clear from the decision of the similarly situated United Arab Emirates not to build more nuclear plants beyond four reactors already planned or under construction. Second, Westinghouse—now bankrupt—has no chance to get the business, and in any case it is no longer a US-owned company. The Saudis, if they did go forward with developing nuclear energy, would do business with the South Koreans, who are successfully completing a proven reactor design next door in the United Arab Emirates.

If buying American is not the key driver of this deal, what is? The Saudis, to maintain theoption of using in its plants US parts whose export is controlled by law, want an umbrella agreement. But they obviously have more in mind than nuclear energy. They compete with Iran for influence in the Middle East, and they are obsessed with this rivalry. They are convinced that they need to match Iran’s nuclear potential. That means being within arm’s reach of a Bomb. These circumstances shouldn’t surprise  anyone, and in fact one of the main reasons to restrain Iran is precisely to avoid such a scenario. If Saudi Arabia opts for nuclear weapons, Turkey and Egypt may be close behind. Taking into account Israel’s nuclear arsenal, the Middle East could turn into a nuclear cauldron.

One must also consider the longer-term consequences of allowing “flexibility” in a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia. Nuclear plants proposed for the Middle East, or now being built, will last many decades. But will governments in the region last that long? The Saudi kingdom—despite recent, overhyped steps toward modernity such as allowing women to drive—is an anachronism. However firmly entrenched the kingdom appears in the person of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, it could disappear overnight, as almost happened in the fundamentalist attack on the Grand Mosque in 1979.

………  nuclear power’s weapons potential is, if anything, more worrisome than ever. It does not make sense for the United States to promote nuclear energy internationally……….


February 24, 2018 - Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war

1 Comment »

  1. […] via The grave danger of USA permissively selling nuclear power to Saudi Arabia — nuclear-news […]

    Pingback by The grave danger of USA permissively selling nuclear power to Saudi Arabia — nuclear-news | World Peace Forum | February 24, 2018 | Reply

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