10.05.2018_No92 / News in Brief

Perry Urges Saudi Arabia To Sign Nuclear Agreement With US

Policies & Politics

10 May (NucNet): US energy Secretary Rick Perry has urged Saudi Arabia to sign a nuclear energy agreement with the US, warning the oil-rich kingdom that it risks missing out on an opportunity to show its commitment to using nuclear power responsibly.

“If they don't, the message will be clear to the rest of the world that the kingdom is not as concerned about being leaders when it comes to nonproliferation in the Middle East,” Mr Perry said in testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

The Trump administration is considering allowing the Saudis to enrich and reprocess uranium as part of what’s known as a nuclear cooperation agreement, or a 123 Agreement.

In exchange, the US would allow Westinghouse and other US companies to bid for nuclear new-build projects in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia says it plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80bn.

US officials discussed a possible deal with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he recently visited the White House.

Democrats at the hearing said they want assurances that the nuclear energy agreement keeps strong measures in place, known as the “gold standard”, to ensure the reactors are not used to enrich uranium for weapons.

According to press reports in Washington, lawmakers are especially worried Saudi Arabia could look to pursue nuclear weapons after Mr Trump announced yesterday he is leaving the Iran nuclear agreement intended to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Last month the US Nuclear Energy Institute led an industry delegation to Saudi Arabia aimed at clarifying Saudi nuclear energy development plans and identifying potential Saudi partners.

Russia and South Korea have already confirmed they are pitching for Saudi new-build contracts. China and France are also likely to be involved in the tender process.

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