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IAEA Calls on Saudis for Guarantees on First Nuclear Reactor

WASHINGTON – The chief US nuclear inspector said on Friday that his agency is asking Saudi Arabia to accept assurances on nuclear materials likely to arrive by the end of the year for its first nuclear reactor.
Satellite images recently emerged from a project built by Argentina in the suburbs of Riyadh, in the aftermath of Washington’s controversy over US President Donald Trump’s approval of nuclear projects with the kingdom rich in oil.
But Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the reactor was not secretive and that Saudi Arabia had informed the US body based in Vienna of its plans in 2014.
He said the IAEA had encouraged Saudi Arabia to implement a comprehensive safeguards agreement, under which the agency would ensure that nuclear material was not used for military purposes.
In 2005, Saudi Arabia signed a so-called small-scale protocol with the IAEA, which exempts countries from inspections if they have no nuclear program or minimum nuclear program.
“We proposed Saudi Arabia to cancel it and replace it with the full-fledged safeguards agreement,” Amano told reporters in Washington.
“They did not say no, they did not say yes, and they are thinking now. We are waiting,” he said.
“At the moment, they do not have the equipment, so there is no violation,” he said.
Amano said Saudi Arabia could import nuclear materials “by the end of the year,” although he warned that nuclear projects were often delayed.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, has announced its intention to spend $80 billion on 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades, as its energy diversification broadens.
The first project, under construction by the nuclear company invoked by the Argentine state INVAP, consists of a low-power research reactor (LPRR), generally used for the training of technicians.
“Saudi Arabia has been dragging its feet for 30 years to secure meaningful agreements in place; but the LPRR means they MUST comply with international rules,” said Robert Kelley, a veteran of the US Department of Energy and former director of nuclear inspections at the IAEA.
“Argentina will not provide nuclear fuel if they do not,” said Kelley, now a Distinguished Associate Member of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
He said the reactor, with its small size, was insignificant in itself but was opening a “tin can,” including the prospect that the Trump administration would share sensitive technology without control.
US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a recent hearing before the Senate that his department had cleared six requests by US companies to carry out nuclear activities in Saudi Arabia.
The approvals are coming despite Saudi Arabia’s failure to seek a section 123 agreement to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear technology, required by US law, before any sensitive material is transferred.
In the United States, Saudi Arabia has been sharply criticized for the number of deaths attributable to its offensive in Yemen, the murder and dismemberment of US-based dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.
“If you can not trust a diet with a bone saw, you should not trust it with nuclear weapons,” said Democratic Representative Brad Sherman to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hearing on Monday. last week.
Pompeo, in an interview Friday with CBS, said the United States would ensure that Saudi Arabia does not develop nuclear weapons.
“We will not allow this to happen elsewhere in the world. The president understands the threat of proliferation,” he said.
The powerful crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, warned that the kingdom would seek the nuclear weapon if its Iranian rival got it.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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