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Tensions in volatile Middle East region, as Saudi nuclear program accelerates

Saudi nuclear program accelerates, raising tensions in volatile region, Country building experimental reactor

Click Orlando , April 06, 2019 On the outskirts of Riyadh, a building site is quickly being transformed into the birthplace of Saudi Arabia’s quest for nuclear power, a bid that has sparked concern in the US Congress and fury in Tehran.

New satellite imagery shows that construction on an experimental reactor is making “expeditious” progress — just three months after the Kingdom announced plans to build it, according to former director for nuclear inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Robert Kelley.

Kelley estimated that the reactor could be completed in “nine months to a year.”

The Kingdom has been open about its nuclear program with the IAEA, which sent a team to Saudi Arabia last July to check on building plans. It has repeatedly pledged that the program is peaceful. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year that “without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

Also raising concern among industry experts and some in Congress is the Saudi insistence that it should be allowed to produce its own nuclear fuel, rather than import it under strict conditions.

In an interview last year, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih said: “It’s not natural for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country to fuel our reactors,” citing the country’s uranium reserves.

Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia went public with its nuclear ambitions nine years ago, but the plans have gone into overdrive as part of the Crown Prince’s “Vision 2030” — a strategy to wean Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil and diversify both the economy and its energy mix……….

The IAEA sent a team to Saudi Arabia in July last year to review the development of its nuclear power infrastructure. That mission concluded that the Kingdom is “well placed to finalize its plans for construction of its first nuclear power plant” through partnerships with countries that have nuclear power industries.

In a visit to Riyadh in January, Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General, confirmed Saudi Arabia had “made significant progress in the development of its nuclear power infrastructure.”

But when the Saudis want to move to the next stage — fueling the reactor at King Abdulaziz City and any commercial plants — they will have to submit to more intrusive IAEA involvement.

“They’ve been exempt for 30 years since they signed a non-proliferation treaty,” said Kelley. “Now they’re going to have to make some serious paperwork and agree to inspections,” if they want to acquire nuclear fuel.

US concerns

Skepticism in the US Congress over whether Saudi Arabia can be a trusted partner has grown since the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year. That’s now manifested itself in critical scrutiny of the Saudi nuclear program — and especially whether the Trump Administration is doing enough to ensure non-proliferation…….

US concerns

Skepticism in the US Congress over whether Saudi Arabia can be a trusted partner has grown since the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year. That’s now manifested itself in critical scrutiny of the Saudi nuclear program — and especially whether the Trump Administration is doing enough to ensure non-proliferation.

Asked whether it was acceptable for Saudi Arabia to become a nuclear power, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was unequivocal in a TV interview on Friday.

“We will not permit that to happen. We will not permit that to happen anywhere in the world,” Pompeo told CBS. “The President understands the threat of proliferation. We will never write a $150 million check to the Saudis and hand them over the capacity to threaten Israel and the United States with nuclear weapons, never.”

A bipartisan resolution introduced in the Senate in February demanded that the use of any US nuclear power technology in Saudi Arabia must be accompanied by safeguards to ensure Saudi Arabia cannot enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel.

“The last thing America should do is inadvertently help develop nuclear weapons for a bad actor on the world stage,” said Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, one of the resolution’s sponsors………

Iran claims that the Trump Administration plans to sell Saudi Arabia nuclear technology without sufficient safeguards. “First a dismembered journalist; now illicit sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia fully expose #USHypocrisy,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted in February.

And in March, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, accused unnamed regional states of developing “suspicious nuclear projects,” which would force Tehran to revise its defense strategy. Quoted by Iranian news agencies, Shamkhani said such plans would “force us to revise our strategy.”

Whatever Saudi Arabia’s energy strategy, and however sincere its pledge that it has no wish to develop nuclear weapons, the mere existence of a nuclear program is bound to inflame tensions across the Gulf. https://www.clickorlando.com/news/international/saudi-nuclear-program-accelerates-raising-tensions-in-volatile-region

April 8, 2019 - Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia

1 Comment »

  1. The saudi arabians are stupid enough and crazy enough to use nunclear weapons. So is Trump. Saudis also stupid enough to rush building, a flawed reactor they do not need. They will probably ship the waste to The Usa or try to pawn it off on australia. With enough money, you can get away with anything. Right?

    Comment by John Bello | April 8, 2019 | Reply


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