The United States is not Saudi Arabia’s only option when it comes to developing nuclear energy projects, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said during Crown Prince Mohammed’s two-week visit in the U.S.
Reuters quoted the official as saying that if the United States declined to help the Kingdom develop its nuclear power industry, it would lose an opportunity to “influence the programme in a positive way.” This, however, would not stop the Saudis from tapping uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technology: besides the United States., Riyadh is also in talks with companies from Russia, China, South Korea, and others.
Cooperation with the United States 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.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been negotiating a possible nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia, but it seems the Kingdom is unwilling to sign the 123 agreement for reasons that until recently remained undisclosed. This weekend, however, Crown Prince Mohammed admitted in an interview for CBS that Saudi Arabia is not averse to developing nuclear weapons if it gets a whiff about Iran doing the same. Related: U.S. Electricity Sales Fall Again
“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb,” Mohammed told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, “but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”
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 but demand for electricity is booming.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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