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Danger signs in Trump and co’s continuing push to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia

Why proposals to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia raise red flags, The Conversation,  Chen Kane,Director, Middle East Nonproliferation Program, Middlebury, February 23, 2019 According to a congressional report, a group that includes former senior U.S. government officials is lobbying to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. As an expert focusing on the Middle East and the spread of nuclear weapons, I believe these efforts raise important legal, economic and strategic concerns.

It is understandable that the Trump administration might want to support the U.S. nuclear industry, which is shrinking at home. However, the congressional report raised concerns that the group seeking to make the sale may have have sought to carry it out without going through the process required under U.S. law. Doing so could give Saudi Arabia U.S. nuclear technology without appropriate guarantees that it would not be used for nuclear weapons in the future.

A competitive global market

Exporting nuclear technology is lucrative, and many U.S. policymakers have long believed that it promotes U.S. foreign policy interests. However, the international market is shrinking, and competition between suppliers is stiff.

Private U.S. nuclear companies have trouble competing against state-supported international suppliers in Russia and China. These companies offer complete construction and operation packages with attractive financing options. Russia, for example, is willing to accept spent fuel from the reactor it supplies, relieving host countries of the need to manage nuclear waste. And China can offer lower construction costs.

Saudi Arabia declared in 2011 that it planned to spend over US$80 billion to construct 16 reactors, and U.S. companies want to provide them. Many U.S. officials see the decadeslong relationships involved in a nuclear sale as an opportunity to influence Riyadh’s nuclear future and preserve U.S. influence in the Saudi kingdom.

Why does Saudi Arabia want nuclear power?

With the world’s second-largest known petroleum reserves, abundant untapped supplies of natural gas and high potential for solar energy, why is Saudi Arabia shopping for nuclear power? Some of its motives are benign, but others are worrisome. ………..

US nuclear trade regulations

Under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, before American companies can compete to export nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia, Washington and Riyadh must conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement, and the U.S. government must submit it to Congress. Unless Congress adopts a joint resolution within 90 days disapproving the agreement, it is approved. The United States currently has 23 nuclear cooperation agreements in force, including Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt (approved in 1981), Turkey (2008) and the United Arab Emirates (2009).

The Atomic Energy Act requires countries seeking to purchase U.S. nuclear technology to make legally binding commitments that they will not use those materials and equipment for nuclear weapons, and to place them under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. It also mandates that the United States must approve any uranium enrichment or plutonium separation activities involving U.S. technologies and materials, in order to prevent countries from diverting them to weapons use.

American nuclear suppliers claim that these strict conditions and time-consuming legal requirements put them at a competitive disadvantage. But those conditions exist to prevent countries from misusing U.S. technology for nuclear weapons. I find it alarming that according to the House report, White House officials may have attempted to bypass or sidestep these conditions – potentially enriching themselves in the process.

According to the congressional report, within days of President Trump’s inauguration, senior U.S. officials were promoting an initiative to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, without either concluding a nuclear cooperation agreement and submitting it to Congress or involving key government agencies, such as the Department of Energy or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. One key advocate for this so-called “Marshall Plan” for nuclear reactors in the Middle East was then-national security adviser Michael Flynn, who reportedly served as an adviser to a subsidiary of IP3, the firm that devised this plan, while he was advising Trump’s presidential campaign.

The promoters of the plan also reportedly proposed to sidestep U.S. sanctions against Russia by partnering with Russian companies – which impose less stringent restrictions on nuclear exports – to sell reactors to Saudi Arabia.

Flynn resigned soon afterward and now is cooperating with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. But IP3 access to the White House persists: According to press reports, President Trump met with representatives of U.S. industry, a meeting organized by IP3 to discuss nuclear exports to Saudi Arabia as recently as mid-February 2019……..


February 25, 2019 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA, weapons and war

1 Comment »

  1. Dr Caldicott, who is my all Time. greatest Hero, says Trump should be picked up and Physically removed from offices starting now. I agree with her 70 percent of America agrees with her. It is not happening though in this evil inverted totalitarian Nuclear Empire.

    From Dr Caldicotts new website in my own words
    Helen Caldicott, M.D.

    What got you started on the path to being a nuclear weapons abolitionist?

    It began back when I was in my teens and read Neville Shute’s novel, t the Beach. It was about a nuclear holocaust that was set in Melbourne. At the end of the book, it was the end of the human race.

    That’s when I lost my psychological virginity – instead of being a teenager looking forward to the future and smelling the orange blossoms, I was from then on acutely aware that the world could end.

    Then I entered medical school at age 17 and learned about radiation, genetics and biology. At that time, Russia and America were testing weapons in the atmosphere, polluting the northern hemisphere with radioactive fallout and I couldn’t for the life of me, as a young female medical student, understand what on earth these men were doing. Still to this day, I’m very aware that life on Earth could end any day.

    When you were in Santa Barbara a few years ago to give the Foundation’s Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future, you mentioned Ronald Reagan. Given the current circumstances, I’m wondering if you care to comment on Trump?

    You know it’s bad when you go to bed and wake up to something even worse. He should be removed from office—physically picked up and removed. But no one’s got the guts to stand up to him. I’m worried because there should be a huge revolution in America and people should be waking up and saying we want our children and descendants to survive and experience the beauty of life on Earth – or do we not care? We need people who will stand up and take on the powers with absolute morality and fearsome will.

    How do you think we can get today’s youth more engaged in the nuclear abolition movement, specifically in the U.S.?

    The problem is that it goes back to what Jefferson said: an informed democracy will behave in a responsible fashion. America is totally uninformed and all the young kids are on social media. They haven’t even talked to each other so they’re not informed, they’re not educated about what has happened to the planet and it’s very terrifying.

    What worries you most about the world today?                                            

    We’re at a point now where we can’t be too radical. We’re the microbes that infect the earth and we either save it or we don’t. We’re heading towards annihilation with global warming and nuclear war and if you read what the corporations in America are doing, the military-industrial complex, selling weapons all over the world, and lots of other countries are into weaponization, too. I’ve never really said this before publicly, but as a physician, analyzing the data as we do with our patients, and taking everything into account to work out a prognostication, I’d say it’s grim.              

    But you must see some hope?

    Really, the golden key to the future of survival is the women. We’re 52% of the world’s population. If we all rose up and said, Look you blokes, you’ve had your chance. Now we’re taking over because you’re heading us towards annihilation. That’s the golden key to survival, but most women don’t even know what’s going on. We need that ferociousness where the lion has to protect her cubs. It’s certainly inherent in every woman.

    But how do we reach the average woman who is mostly consumed with just getting by, putting food on the table and gas in the car?

    You’ve got to do it on a mass basis. The only way to do it is through mass media; it’s the only way. We’ve got to educate, engage and inform women so that they cast aside their apathy. It starts with a hash tag, a like, a re-tweet. And the media is forced to pay attention. Then and only then, will the ferociousness of the lion rise up to protect the world.

    And finally, after a lifetime devoted to saving the planet, how do you spend your valuable time these days?

    I’m 80 years old and I was going to write another book, “Why Men Kill and Why Women Let Them” and then I decided instead to immerse myself in the beauty of nature – the very thing I’ve always struggled to save.

    When Helen Caldicott was a teenager, she read a book that would change her life. It was entitled On the Beach. Since then, Dr. Caldicott has devoted herself to educating the public about the medical hazards of the Nuclear Age and the changes in behavior necessary to prevent human and environmental devastation. She has awakened the world to the importance of reaching nuclear zero and to the need for organized action if we are to ensure a safe future for our children and grandchildren. Dr. Caldicott, a physician and former Harvard University professor of pediatrics, has written seven books, co-founded Physicians for Social Responsibility, founded Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament, and is the President of the Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear Free Future. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Linus Pauling – himself a two-time Nobel Laureate. The Smithsonian has named her one of the most influential women of the 20th Century.

    Comment by Ken R | February 25, 2019 | Reply

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