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Saudi cabinet approves national atomic policy

Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is setting off on his first foreign tour as heir to the throne
BANDAR AL-JALOUD (Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)
Saudi Arabia has accelerated plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades

Saudi Arabia's cabinet on Tuesday approved the national policy of its atomic energy program, state media said, as the kingdom prepares to award contracts for its first nuclear power plants.

The policy insists on limiting nuclear activities to peaceful purposes and calls for enhanced safety measures as well as the use of best practices for radioactive waste management, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is seeking nuclear power to diversify its energy supply mix in order to free up oil to boost exports.

The policy announcement comes ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to the United States on March 19-22, which is likely to see efforts to reach a civilian nuclear cooperation accord with Washington.

The kingdom has accelerated plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades, officials and analysts say, at a cost of some $80 billion.

BANDAR AL-JALOUD (Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)

Negotiations are underway with the United States for its agreement to export technology needed for their construction.

Saudi Arabia's planned nuclear reactors, which can be used to produce material for everything from medical technologies to weapons-grade plutonium, have sparked concern in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asked US President Donald Trump during talks in Washington last week to abstain from a potential deal to send Saudi Arabia nuclear material.

Trump did not alleviate Netanyahu’s concerns, reportedly telling Netanyahu that if the US were to abstain from selling the Saudis the nuclear reactors, the Saudis would turn to Russia or China to sell them what they needed.

In response, Netanyahu was reported to have asked the Americans that if they were to sell nuclear reactors to the Saudis, that Saudi Arabia be prevented from enriching uranium -- a critical part of generating, in a more benign form, nuclear power, or, in a more extreme form, nuclear weapons.

MANDEL NGAN (AFP)

While Trump reportedly did not provide Netanyahu with a definitive answer, the two sides agreed to further consultations on the matter.

Besides the US company Westinghouse, Russian, French, Chinese and South Korean firms have all been seeking the Saudi contracts.

Some analysts have voiced concerns that Saudi Arabia seeks to use its atomic program as a hedge against its arch-rival Iran, which signed a deal with the United States in 2015 to curb its own nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Saudi Arabia, which insists its intentions are peaceful, has signed cooperation agreements with over a dozen countries in recent years to boost nuclear cooperation, including France, China and Russia.

Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, whereas Israel has never signed it and has refused to declare its reported nuclear weapons capability, preferring a policy of ambiguity.

(Staff with AFP)

Comments

(2)

SA & Egypt need to recognize IL.

What is wrong with you??? Egypt of course recognize Israel!!! They have a peace treaty! For almost 30 years already and both countries collaborate together on many areas

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