A document first witnessed by Reuters claims that U.S. companies have been given the go-ahead to sell nuclear power assistance and technology to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. has been in direct competition with countries like South Korea and Russia regarding a deal to sell and share information to and with the Saudi government. It seems like President Trump and his administration have taken one step closer towards securing that deal.
Selling approval came by way of U.S. Energy secretary Rick Perry through what’s known as the Part 810 authorizations, which has granted six undisclosed companies to perform preliminary work on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear projects, including the construction of two power plants.
However, the authorizations bar these companies from shipping equipment that can be used inside the plants. A Department of Energy official claims that the authorizations passed through a “multi-agency approval process.”
U.S. lawmakers have shared their concerns over the authorizations, claiming that sharing nuclear data and technology with the Saudis could potentially lead to a “nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Figures like Representative Brad Sherman are now accusing the Trump administration of evading Congress on sharing its power with Saudi Arabia.
He has asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to release the names of any companies that have garnered authorizations by this April. Pompeo has stated he will examine the option further, though he says sharing nuclear technology would not present any risks.
The situation appears grim from the outside, though sharing nuclear information with the Saudi Kingdom may have its advantages. For one thing, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. share a common enemy in Iran. In an interview last year , Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman explained that his country does not wish to develop nuclear bombs, but that if Iran ever engaged in building nuclear weapons, his country would follow suit as a means of defending itself. Salman also likened Iran’s leader to Hitler.
Iran’s nuclear program has been under the microscope for nearly 20 years, though their nuclear capabilities have consistently led to further questions than answers. 2015 saw a drastic change through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) an agreement between Iran, the U.S. and its allies. The deal paved way for Iran to receive billions of dollars in sanctions relief granted it was willing to “curb its nuclear program.”
Last year, President Trump made the decision to exit the nuclear program , calling it “an embarrassment” and invoking previous sanctions on Iran. The nation has repeatedly claimed it would resume its full nuclear schedule granted the U.S. ever fell back on the previous deal.
A nuclear relationship, so to speak, with Saudi Arabia could pave the way for a potential ally against Iran should it ever show significant capabilities of developing nuclear arms. In addition, the deal keeps major competitors of the U.S., such as Russia and China, out of the loop. Both countries had previously offered deals to Saudi Arabia without secure conditions .
Dan Lipman – vice-president for suppliers, new reactors and international programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) comments:
From a geostrategic perspective, we want the Saudi economy to be diversified and healthy. If they partner with the Russians or the Chinese, we’re on the outside looking in… no one develops the infrastructure and makes the investments necessary for commercial nuclear power plants as a route to a bomb. A 123 agreement with the U.S. ensures the world’s highest standards for nuclear safety and non-proliferation… If the Russians or the Chinese are there, those standards are not as tough.