New satellite imagery shows that construction on an experimental nuclear reactor in Saudi Arabia is making”expeditious” progress — just three months after the Kingdom announced plans to build it… The Kingdom has been open about its nuclear program with the IAEA, which sent a team to Saudi Arabia last July to check on building plans. It has repeatedly pledged that the program is peaceful. But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said last year that “without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”
Also raising concern among industry experts and some in Congress is the Saudi insistence that it should be allowed to produce its own nuclear fuel, rather than import it under strict conditions. In an interview last year, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih said: “It’s not natural for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country to fuel our reactors,” citing the country’s uranium reservess. Saudi Arabia went public with its nuclear ambitions nine years ago, but the plans have gone into overdrive as part of the Crown Prince’s “Vision 2030” — a strategy to wean Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil and diversify both the economy and its energy mix. Companies that help Saudi Arabia with its nuclear ambitions are US, China, Russia, France and South Korea. Saudi Arabia has also signed agreements with the China National Nuclear Corporation for exploring uranium reserves in the Kingdom…
In heated exchanges at the Senate Armed Services committee at the end of March, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that if the United States did not cooperate with the Saudis, they would look to Russia or China to develop their nuclear industry. “I can assure you that those two countries don’t give a tinker’s damn about nuclear non-proliferation,” Perry said.
Excerpts from Saudi nuclear program accelerates, raising tensions in a volatile region, CNN, Apr. 7, 2019