(April 3, 2019 / JNS) Saudi Arabia is almost done constructing its first nuclear reactor, according to GoogleEarth images of the plant, raising concerns about the kingdom possibly operating a facility without following international standards and therefore acquiring nuclear weapons.
“There’s a very high probability these images show the country’s first nuclear facility,” former International Atomic Energy Agency director Robert Kelley told Bloomberg News. “It means that Saudi Arabia has to get its safeguards in order.”
There are also concerns that Saudi Arabia could be part of a nuclear arms race against other Mideast countries such as its rival Iran, which is in the process of developing a nuclear bomb.
U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Tuesday about a deal to export nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
“The kingdom has engaged in many deeply troubling actions and statements that have provoked alarm in Congress and led lawmakers to begin the process of reevaluating the U.S.-Saudi relationship and our long-term stability and interests in the region,” they said in a letter. “We therefore believe the United States should not be providing nuclear technology or information to them at this time.”
Last month, Perry cleared six secret requests by companies to give nuclear power technology and assistance to the Wahhabi nation.
Known as Part 810 authorizations, they permit firms to conduct preliminary work on nuclear before any deal but cannot send equipment for the facility.
“No enrichment or reprocessing technology has been authorized to Saudi Arabia,” an Energy Department official told The Hill. “Part 810 requests contain business proprietary information. By law, these authorizations go through a multi-agency review process.”