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Persian envy: Saudi Arabia wants to also enrich uranium, says energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Open in fullscreen

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Persian envy: Saudi Arabia wants to also enrich uranium, says energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman

Saudi Arabia is currently 'experimenting' with two nuclear reactors [AFP]

Date of publication: 9 September, 2019

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Saudi Arabia's energy minister has said that Riyadh is looking to enrich uranium - a prospect which would complicate matters for the kingdom's global partners.
Saudi Arabia's energy minister said on Monday that Riyadh hopes to enrich uranium to fuel its nuclear power programme, according to Reuters.

The move, which would open the possibility for the kingdom to develop nuclear weapons, could complicate cooperation with Washington over the matter.

"We are proceeding with it cautiously ... we are experimenting with two nuclear reactors," Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman was quoted by Reuters as saying in reference to the kingdom's aim of issuing a tender for its first two nuclear reactors.

American, French, Russian, South Korean and Chinese firms are currently in talks regarding the project, which is expected to be tendered in 2020.

If US firms are to compete for the multi-billion dollar project, however, Riyadh would likely have to sign an accord with Washington on the peaceful use of nuclear technology. This would be in line with the United States Atomic Energy Act. 

But Saudi officials have in the past ruled out the possibility of signing deals that limit their ability to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel - processes which could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia says it is pursuing nuclear power as a means of weaning its country off reliance on fossil fuels, however the pursuit of nuclear weapons has not been ruled out.

Last year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom would develop nuclear arms if regional arch-rival Iran did. Iran has in recent months stepped up its nuclear activities as its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with the US and European powers collapses.

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