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Saudi Arabia’s push for nuclear power – a nuclear weapons danger

Arms control experts concerned by Saudi nuclear reactor push, Aljazeera
Satellite images show work progressing on Saudi reactor even though international IAEA inspectors are still frozen out.   
by Jonathan Tirone • Bloomberg. 22 May 2020  Saudi Arabia is pushing ahead to complete its first nuclear reactor, according to satellite images that have raised concern among arms-control experts because the kingdom has yet to implement international monitoring rules.

Satellite photos show the kingdom has built a roof over the facility before putting in place International Atomic Energy Agency regulations that allow inspectors early verification of the reactor’s design. Foregoing on-the-ground monitoring until after the research reactor is completed would be an unusual move normally discouraged under regulations to ensure civilian atomic programs aren’t used to make weapons.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly pledged that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, but Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman also said the kingdom would develop a bomb if its regional rival Iran did so. Those statements made in 2018 raised a red flag within the nuclear monitoring community which is uneasy that it has more ability to access nuclear sites in Iran than it does in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of energy didn’t respond to a request to comment.

While Saudi Arabia has been open about its ambitions to generate nuclear power, less is known about the kinds of monitoring the kingdom intends to put in place. President Donald Trump’s administration sent a letter to Saudi Arabia last year setting requirements to access U.S. atomic technology. The baseline for any agreement is tougher IAEA inspections.

…….. At issue is the weak and outdated set of IAEA safeguard rules, called the “Small Quantities Protocol,” or SQP, that Saudi Arabia continues to follow, according to Laura Rockwood, the IAEA’s former chief lawyer who drafted stricter inspection guidelines to which the vast majority of countries adhere.

Satellite images show that a thick lattice of roof beams is now covering the 10-meter (33 feet) high steel reactor vessel. Argentina’s state-owned INVAP SE sold the low-powered research reactor to Saudi Arabia.”The problem is that design-information verification has to be carried out while it’s being constructed,” said Rockwood, who now directs the Open Nuclear Network in Vienna

While Saudi Arabia adheres to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the bedrock agreement that regulates the spread of material needed to induce fission, it still has to implement monitoring rules in line with its nuclear program development.

“Saudi Arabia’s agreement right now is completely minimal, out of date, and unequal to the task of providing the kind of transparency that the IAEA and other member states need about Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program,” said Sharon Squassoni, a researcher and former diplomat on non-proliferation issues at George Washington University.

–With assistance from Verity Ratcliffehttps://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/arms-control-experts-concerned-saudi-nuclear-reactor-push-200521155658787.html

May 22, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress kept in the dark about government nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia

U.S. should keep Congress informed about nuclear talks with Saudis: GAO, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudi-nuclearpower/us-should-keep-congress-informed-about-nuclear-talks-with-saudis-gao-idUSKBN22G2X  Timothy Gardner

6 May 20, WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Departments of State and Energy should commit to regular briefings to relevant committees in Congress on talks about nuclear power cooperation with Saudi Arabia, a congressional watchdog said in a report on Monday.

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, report said Congress should consider amending the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, or AEA, to require the briefings for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about negotiations on nuclear power sharing.

Lawmakers concerned about nonproliferation issues associated with nuclear power development had complained they were being kept in the dark about Trump administration talks with Saudi Arabia, many of which were led by former Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Concern grew after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in 2018 that the kingdom did not want to acquire a nuclear bomb, but would do so if its rival Iran did so.

Riyadh could announce a tender this year for two nuclear power reactors, its first commercial ones. Russia, China, South Korea and France have also been in talks about building reactors there.The State Department is required by the AEA to keep Congress “fully and currently informed” about the talks. But the GAO found it was “unclear” whether the department did so. “Congressional staff provided us with examples of having to find information on the negotiations from other sources, such as press articles,” the GAO said.

Some U.S. lawmakers want the United States to insist that Saudi Arabia agree to a so-called gold standard that restricts enrichment and reprocessing, potential pathways to making fissile material for nuclear weapons. The United States struck such an agreement with the United Arab Emirates in 2009. If Saudi Arabia develops nuclear power without the gold standard, the UAE would likely seek to be released from its agreement.

The GAO said Congress should consider whether to amend the AEA to require briefings, perhaps on a quarterly basis, and to specify expectations for the content of the briefings.

Senators Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, had asked the GAO last year to review U.S. agency negotiations with Saudi Arabia on nuclear power, partially because they were concerned the Energy Department, not the State Department took the lead.

The senators said they would explore legislative changes recommended by the GAO. “Congress must reassert its critical role in reviewing nuclear cooperation agreements to ensure these agreements do not pose an unnecessary risk to the United States” they said.

Senators Robert Menendez, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, had asked the GAO last year to review U.S. agency negotiations with Saudi Arabia on nuclear power, partially because they were concerned the Energy Department, not the State Department took the lead.

The senators said they would explore legislative changes recommended by the GAO. “Congress must reassert its critical role in reviewing nuclear cooperation agreements to ensure these agreements do not pose an unnecessary risk to the United States” they said.

May 7, 2020 Posted by | politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia’s nuclear reactor will eventually lead to a Saudi nuclear weapon, and to its use

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Reactor Nears Completion, Bringing Prospect Of Saudi WMD – OpEd https://www.eurasiareview.com/19042020-saudi-arabias-nuclear-reactor-nears-completion-bringing-prospect-of-saudi-wmd-oped/,  April 19, 2020  Richard Silverstein   Bloomberg reported last week that Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactor is nearing completion.  It purchased the reactor from the Argentinian company, INVAP.  But construction and installation of the plant has proven a huge payday for companies in several European countries and the U.S.

After the Obama administration hesitated to support the project, Trump offered full-throated support.  One of the most attractive propositions in the deal for him was the lucrative contracts for U.S. businesses who participated.

The reactor is one of the crowning achievements of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka “the Headchopper”) in his plan to “modernize” and “reform” the Saudi Arabian economy and military.  Part of his ambition has been to project his country’s power and interests in more muscular fashion in the region.  One of the ways he did this was to invade Yemen and rain terror upon the Houthi regions of that country killing 100,000 Yemenis and starving even more with a crippling blockade.

Saudi Arabia’s chief regional rival has been Iran.  The purpose of the reactor is to send a loud and clear message that Iran’s nuclear ambitions will be met step-for-step by MBS.  If Iran gets nuclear weapons, the Crown Prince wants to be right behind.  The problem with this approach is that Iran, which has not made such a weapon though it could have if it wanted, has pursued a careful, calibrated approach.  While the Saudis have pursued a reckless, aggressive approach in every operation they undertake to project their military power.

If they can decimate Yemen as they have, sinking themselves into a costly quagmire, why would anyone think they would use the products of their nuclear reactor in any more responsible way?  Does MBS’s order to murder Jamal Khashoggi, cut his body into pieces and disappear it in acid, give anyone confidence that he wouldn’t be willing to do the same to entire countries he saw as implacable enemies?

Iran has never threatened to use nuclear weapons. Just the opposite, Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring them forbidden.  MBS, despite the fact that his country is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pact, would never swear off such weapons.  In fact, the moment that he has the ability to build and deliver WMD will likely be the day he threatens to use it.

Every party which collaborated with the Saudis in this project will have blood on their hands when (not if) that country becomes nuclear-capable.

Only a decade ago, the Obama administration supported a regional conference planned to promote a Middle East nuclear-free zone.  Israel, with its 200 nuclear weapons, objected strenuously and the idea died of neglect.  There will come a time in the near future when the world will regret this tragically-missed opportunity.

Despite boilerplate statements that the reactor is for civilian power and research purposes, mark my words: Saudi Arabia’s nuclear reactor will eventually lead to a Saudi nuclear weapon.  That weapon will exponentially increase the likelihood it will be used someday.  Again, not “if,” but “when.”

This article was published by Tikun Olam

April 20, 2020 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains Trump’s plan to kill off the Iran nuclear agreement

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Iran, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Rick Perry authorised secret nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia, without Congress approval

November 14, 2019 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

USA negotiating nuclear sales with Saudi Arabia

October 31, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Countries vie to market nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia

October 31, 2019 Posted by | marketing, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry says USA and Saudi Arabia negotiating on nuclear sales

U.S. says talks progressing with Saudi on possible nuclear program, DUBAI (Reuters) 27 Oct 19– U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Saturday that conversations with Saudi Arabia on a nuclear program are going forward.The world’s top oil exporter had said it wanted to use nuclear power to diversify its energy mix. It wants to go ahead with a full-cycle nuclear program, including the production and enrichment of uranium for atomic fuel.

In order for U.S. companies to compete for Saudi Arabia’s project, Riyadh would normally need to sign an accord on the peaceful use of nuclear technology with Washington.

Reuters has reported that progress on the discussions has been difficult because Saudi Arabia does not want to sign a deal that would rule out the possibility of enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel – both potential paths to a bomb.

“The kingdom and the leadership in the kingdom .. will find a way to sign a 1,2,3 agreement with the United States, I think,” Perry said.

Speaking at a round table in Abu Dhabi, Perry added that the United States was doing everything it could to have a ready global supply of oil…… https://www.reuters.com/article/us-uae-us-energy/us-says-talks-progressing-with-saudi-on-possible-nuclear-program-idUSKBN1X509E

October 28, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | 1 Comment

Rick Perry to Discuss Nuclear Sharing Agreement With Saudi Arabia

September 14, 2019 Posted by | marketing of nuclear, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium

Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium For Its Nuclear Power Reactors, Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, 8 Sept 19

Saudi Arabia new energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced the kingdom plans to enrich uranium for its future civilian nuclear power program. The move could mark the start of a race for nuclear weapons in the Gulf as attempts by the United States and European Union to strike a new deal with Iran on its nuclear plan falter. ……

Saudi’s former energy minister said in April that Riyadh’s use of the reactors would be peaceful and in compliance with “international framework governing … nuclear energy and its peaceful use.” However, the kingdom previously said it would not sign any deal that would restrict its nuclear program. The same technology used to enrich uranium for civilian reactors can also be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons   …… https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2019/09/09/saudi-arabia-plans-to-enrich-uranium-for-its-nuclear-power-reactors/#5450c3415e2f

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, Uranium | Leave a comment

Fears that a nuclear Saudi Arabia will destabise the region. Trump’s secret support.

‘Alarm bells’: Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions cast shadow over the region

Analysts fear Riyadh is seeking to develop the technical capabilities that would allow it to quickly pursue nuclear weapons,  Middle Eastern Eye,  By Maysam Behravesh,23 June 2019  “…….  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,  continues to receive extraordinary support from US President Donald Trump’s administration. …..Saudi Arabia’s nuclear and missile programmes are bound to have significant regional implications.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Trump is more interested in helping nuclear companies to sell to Saudi Arabia, than in the well-being of Americans

WASHINGTON ,WATCH: IS TRUMP HELPING THE SAUDIS GO NUCLEAR?   https://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Washington-Watch-Is-Trump-helping-the-Saudis-go-nuclear-592310,BY DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD, JUNE 12, 2019

US President Donald Trump recently took another step toward bringing Saudi Arabia into the nuclear club. While Israeli-Saudi ties have warmed in recent years, helping the desert kingdom go nuclear – with its ongoing support for the most extreme Islamic radicals in the world – can hardly be good for the Jewish state.

Secret negotiations with the US Energy Department over many months have led Washington to “transfer highly sensitive US nuclear technology, a potential violation of federal law,” to Saudi Arabia, according to House Oversight Committee sources cited by The Washington Post.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) revealed last week that at least two transfers were approved since the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudis say they want to begin building their own nuclear power plants with their own enriched uranium, even though it could be purchased elsewhere more cheaply. That raises suspicions that their real goal isn’t producing electricity. By enriching their own uranium, they could begin diverting it to highly enriched weapons grade, especially if they bar international inspectors, as they’ve insisted.
Given its record of obeisance to Saudi demands for top technology and weapons, it is unlikely the Trump administration would object, but instead continue helping to conceal the kingdom’s plans.   Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler, has said that the kingdom would build nuclear weapons if the Iranians did. He may have taken encouragement from a speech in the UAE last month by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton.

The Iranians are threatening to leave the nuclear pact with the major powers – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – in the wake of the Trump administration’s unilateral exit last year and imposition of sanctions to tighten the economic screws on Tehran.

There’s “no reason” for Iran to walk away from JCPOA, “unless it is to reduce the breakout time to nuclear weapons,” said Bolton, a decades-long advocate of regime change in Iran. Bolton offered no evidence to back his claim.

That should give MBS the rationale he seeks to develop his version of the bomb.

When he turns to Trump for help, he will remind the president that if America won’t sell it to him, there are others who will. Trump is a sucker for that pitch.

North Korea would be a good place to go shopping, since they tried helping Syria build nukes until the Israeli Air Force stopped the plan, something it had done earlier in Iraq. Then there’s Pakistan, which is believed to have built its own nuclear weapons stockpile with Saudi financial help.

THERE MIGHT BE some resistance on Capitol Hill, where Saudi support is low and sinking, but Trump has shown himself more responsive to the wishes of the Saudis than the US Congress.

Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina may moan and groan and make threatening sounds toward Riyadh, but he and majority leader Mitch McConnell are Trump’s poodles, and will make sure the president gets what he wants.

All US administrations – Republican and Democratic – have indulged the Saudi appetite for top technology and weapons. They’ve been driven by pressure from industry and its friends in the Pentagon to sell, sell, sell – and an inexplicable attitude that we need the Saudis far more than they need us. Trump has just raised this to a new level.

Trump’s latest selling spree includes 120,000 conversion kits to produce smart bombs. It is part of an $8.1 billion package that Trump labeled “emergency” to bypass Congressional review.

Most alarming is the Trump administration’s approval for the transfer of highly sensitive weapons technology and equipment to Saudi Arabia so the kingdom can produce electronic guidance systems for Paveway precision-guided bombs, according to congressional sources cited by The New York Times.

The administration assured Congress that it is confident in the Saudi ability to protect the technology, that the need is urgent and that it won’t alter the balance of power in the region – which is exactly what it is intended to do.
Look for Trump to justify massive sales to the Saudis and the UAE as also helping protect Israel from Iran. Historically, all administrations have justified arms sales around the Middle East as harmless to Israel’s qualitative military edge. But they aren’t. Especially when the US is selling the Arabs the same planes, missiles and technology it sells Israel. Trump values his oil-rich customer so much that he has rejected the findings of his own CIA that the crown prince was complicit in Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi Arabia is the Pentagon’s favorite cash cow. Arms sales are a lucrative business for the US Defense Department, which charges commissions and other fees, and gets economies of scale for its own purchases while selling off old inventory to help pay for replacements. Military attachés around the world are top salesmen for defense contractors as they lay the groundwork for post-uniform careers. Then there are the former – and possibly future – defense industry executives at the highest levels of the Pentagon, starting with the Secretary of Defense.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) said the administration “has effectively given a blank check to the Saudis – turning a blind eye to the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and allowing their ballistic missile program to expand.”

The United States is not allowed to sell ballistic missiles, so the Saudis have turned to China. CNN reported last week that American intelligence believes Beijing is helping enhance the kingdom’s strategic missile program. In the 1980s, it secretly bought Chinese DF-3 missiles and based them within range of Israel. It bought more advanced missiles in 2007 with the approval of then-president George W. Bush. Unconfirmed published reports suggest they also bought other missiles from Pakistan, which produces a version of the North Korean Nodong missile.

If the Saudis decide to pursue nuclear weapons, they can turn to Trump’s dear friend Kim Jong Un, whose cash-strapped regime has developed its own and the missiles to deliver them.

With Trump looking for business that will create jobs he can claim credit for – and with John Bolton rattling sabers and B-52s, and calling for regime change in Iran – can Saudi Arabia be knocking on an open door to the nuclear club?

June 13, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Soon after the Saudi Arabian killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump administration authorised share of sensitive nuclear information with Saudi Arabia

June 6, 2019 Posted by | politics, Saudi Arabia, USA | 1 Comment

Trump may use ’emergency’ powers to bypass Congress, to sell missiles to Saudi Arabia

May 25, 2019 Posted by | politics, politics international, Saudi Arabia, USA | Leave a comment

Distrust of Saudi Arabia’s motives in building a nuclear reactor

May 7, 2019 Posted by | politics, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment