Saudis launch research reactor with eye on Iran

by WorldTribune Staff, November 6, 2018

Saudi Arabia on Nov. 5 launched a project to build its first nuclear research reactor as part of a plan in which the kingdom will construct 16 nuclear facilities over the next two decades at a cost of $80 billion.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih during a Nov. 5 tour of KACST. / Saudi Press Agency

Saudi officials cited a need to diversify the kingdom’s energy capabilities, but also pointed to Iran’s continued development of its nuclear program.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned earlier this year that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, the Saudis will do so as well.

Saudi Arabia applauded U.S. President Donald Trump’s move in May to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

“The U.S. sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to renegotiate the nuclear deal and curb its involvement in the wars in Syria and Yemen, where Teheran and Riyadh support opposing sides in the conflict,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said in a Nov. 6 report.

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, the new Saudi reactor is among seven projects officially started by the crown prince during a visit to Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

The Saudi government has provided few details about the research reactor, which is typically used for research, development, or education purposes rather than to produce electrical power, the RFE/RL report said.

Saudi Arabia currently draws on its oil and natural gas resources to meet its fast-growing demand for power and to desalinate its water.

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