Saudis eye own enrichment but fears over risks prevail
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
Islam Times - Indications are growing that Saudi Arabia wants to have its own uranium enrichment program in what many believe is a result of the kingdom’s ambitions for regional rivalry with Iran.
Bloomberg in a report quoted Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir as indicating that Riyadh would not accept a so-called “gold standard” that would require it to have no enrichment or reprocessing of uranium in the country.
“We want to have the same rights as other countries,” al-Jubeir was quoted as telling CNBC on Sunday in what Bloomberg said was a reference to Iran’s ability to enrich its own uranium under an agreement with the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany in 2015.
Saudi Arabia has long rejected the gold standard. It has its own uranium underground and wants to be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel preparation over the long term, Bloomberg added.
However, the report highlighted concerns that the uranium that the Saudis want to enrich on their own soil could fall into the hands of terrorists.
Nuclear energy is a far cry from nuclear weapons but there is overlap, it wrote. Spent fuel, which can be reprocessed into plutonium for bombs, lasts for thousands of years; enriched uranium needed for the process holds special allure to terrorist groups, the report added.
Bloomberg further emphasized that the US – a main bidder in Saudi Arabia’s scheme to go nuclear – was reluctantly preparing to offer the Saudis a deal that would fall short of the gold standard.
It added that US diplomats and intelligence officials would soon visit Riyadh for talks over the kingdom’s plans to utilize nuclear energy.
Bloomberg further wrote that Saudi nuclear energy program could be a lifesaver for the US nuclear industry which it said was already in the dumps.
However, it emphasized that Washington would have to face a tough competition with other rivals that included its own allies South Korea, France as well as China and Russia that the Pentagon had lately designated as American’s main threats.
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