Saudi Arabia is in talks with 10 countries that could help it advance its ambitious nuclear power plans should the United States refuse to do that, the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at the Munich Security Conference.
Cooperation with the U.S. in the field of nuclear power is only possible for countries that sign the so-called 123 agreement, which stipulates a clear distinction between using nuclear technology for civil and for military purposes, and binds the signee to utilizing the technology for civil purposes only.
It seems that Saudi Arabia is not all too willing to sign such an agreement and is looking for alternative suppliers of know-how, even though Al-Jubeir made a point to say that Riyadh has no interest in using nuclear technology for military purposes.
The Kingdom’s nuclear plan seeks the construction of 16 nuclear reactors within the next 20-25 years, for a total cost of over US$80 billion. The aim is to reduce the domestic consumption of crude oil, so more of it can be exported. Saudi Arabia currently uses about 25 percent of its oil production domestically, and as the World Nuclear Association recently noted, while production is unlikely to rise substantially, this is not the case with demand for electricity, which is booming.
"The countries that we are talking to are probably roughly 10 countries or so around the world and we have not made a decision yet with regards to which path we will take and which country we will be focusing on more," Al-Jubeir said. However, the minister declined to give a straight answer to the question what the Kingdom would do if the U.S. refuses to support its nuclear program.
"This is really something that's up to our nuclear energy professionals to deal with, but our objective is we want to have the same rights as other countries," he said. India recently became the latest country to sign a 123 agreement with the United States.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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