Washington (GPA– A wave of US firms have begun lobbying to start talks on assisting Riyadh in the creation of a Saudi nuclear program.

Ahead of a highly anticipated trip to Riyadh by US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, potential Saudi nuclear partners are lobbying the Trump regime to kickstart a civilian nuclear program in the Gulf kingdom.

Trump and Bin Salman
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The trip is highly anticipated due to the fact that the Saudis are in the midst of trying to break their crippling oil addiction and the US has plenty of technology for sale that could help. One of the most controversial options for the Saudis is, of course, nuclear technology.

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The idea of a nuclear program in Saudi Arabia has been discussed with the US before, however, the two nations have never been able to agree on whether Saudi Arabia should have the capability to enrich their own uranium. Despite Riyadh’s wish to have the same enrichment abilities as Iran, the US historically hasn’t been willing to trust the nation with this much responsibility.

According to sources in the nuclear energy industry that spoke to Reuters, it’s also likely that representatives from Washington and Riyadh have already met and had an initial round of dialogue on this matter. Riyadh also started the process of shopping for nuclear reactor equipment in mid-October in anticipation of beginning construction next year.

Historically there has also been the problem of what is referred to as a 123 agreement, which requires nuclear technology will only be used for civilian projects before a transfer can take place. The problem is that the Saudis refuse to sign the agreement.

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The Saudis also refuse to sign an agreement that would prohibit them from enriching uranium in the future, which is unlikely to change as a condition of the US. If the new regime in the US is willing to overlook these kinds of agreements in favor of making sales to Riyadh, this would be a massive shift in US policy.

The US nuclear industry obviously isn’t a lucrative sector in the US, where there has been a decades-long moratorium on the construction of new nuclear facilities which is why the major suppliers are clamoring for the chance to operate in Saudi Arabia.  The government agency, The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), which is drawing up the Saudi nuclear plans say they hope to build the facilities to generate 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear power, which would require about 17 average nuclear reactors.