Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium For Its Nuclear Power Reactors

Topline: 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.

  • Reuters reported that the kingdom’s new energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, told a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel in Abu Dhabi on Monday: “We are proceeding with it cautiously ... we are experimenting with two nuclear reactors.”
  • It comes after the kingdom, which is the world’s largest oil producer, said it wanted to expand its energy resources at home beyond fossil fuels in order to free up more oil for export. The nuclear reactors could be one alternative.
  • 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  

Tangent: Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman is the first member of Saudi’s ruling royal family to occupy the key job as the kingdom’s energy minister. The prince has a long history of working as a delegate to the OPEC cartel but only took on a position as minister on Sunday. Boosting oil prices to fill holes in the Saudi’s budget and pushing through the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco will be key tasks for the half-brother of Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Key background: Saudi Arabia had already announced its plan to build two nuclear power reactors in a move that has alarmed arms controls activists. The kingdom has stressed the program is peaceful, but it follows decades of tension with its regional rival Iran, which has been accused of using its own civilian nuclear program to develop fuel for nuclear weapons.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump’s hard-line approach on Tehran, and in 2018 announced that the kingdom would “acquire” a nuclear weapon if Iran reached that milestone.

Source: Forbes
Date: Sep 9, 2019