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Senators Warn Trump Saudi-Chinese Uranium Plant Risks Spread of Nuclear Weapons

Senators Warn Trump Saudi-Chinese Uranium Plant Risks Spread of Nuclear Weapons, WSJGroup of Democratic and Republican lawmakers request briefings on the matter, in letter to the president, By Warren P. Strobel, Aug. 19, 2020 , WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of U.S. senators warned President Trump on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s undeclared nuclear and missile programs pose a serious threat to efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the region and requested briefings on the subject.

The letter follows a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month that the Saudis, with Chinese help, had constructed a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, an advance in the oil-rich kingdom’s drive to master nuclear technology, according to Western officials.

“Saudi Arabia is positioning itself to develop the front-end of the [nuclear] fuel cycle. These technologies, if unchecked, would give Riyadh a latent capacity to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), along with two other Democratic and three Republican senators, wrote in a letter to the president.

The Saudi Energy Ministry earlier this month categorically denied having built a uranium ore facility in the area of northwest Saudi Arabia described by some of the Western officials. It said that extraction of minerals—including uranium—is a key part of the country’s economic diversification strategy.

Manufacturing uranium yellowcake, a milled form of uranium ore, is a relatively early step in the nuclear cycle. It takes multiple additional steps and technology to process and enrich uranium sufficiently for it to power a civil nuclear energy plant. At very high enrichment levels, uranium can fuel a nuclear weapon……. (subscribers only)

August 22, 2020 - Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA, weapons and war

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