Saudi Arabia Plans To Expand Its Nuclear Program

Saudi Arabia Plans To Expand Its Nuclear Program

“We want to develop the manufacture of nuclear fuel both for our national use and of course for export.”

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Wednesday that the kingdom intends to use its uranium for the entire nuclear fuel cycle, adding that recent soil exploration has revealed that the country had a variety of uranium deposits. Saudi Arabia has kept its word… And recently started a nuclear program that it wishes to develop.

Bandar AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace / AFPMohammad bin Salman

“The Kingdom intends to use its national uranium resources, including through joint ventures with willing partners, in accordance with international commitments and transparency standards.” The minister told a mining industry conference in Riyadh that it would concern “the whole nuclear fuel cycle which involves the production of yellowcake (an intermediate step in the process of making nuclear fuel from uranium ore), low-enriched uranium and the fabrication of nuclear fuel both for our domestic use and of course for export.”

A civilian and military aspect: the Iranian specter

“The Saudi nuclear program involves two aspects. The first is civil because oil risks disappearing one day, and Saudi Arabia seeks to invest in energy sources and industrial fields other than oil. The second is economic. This nuclear energy is interesting for the ultra-modern city that MBS is building (The Line). This city aims to be powered by nuclear or even solar energy,” Raphael Jerusalmy, a former military intelligence officer in the Israeli army, told i24NEWS.

According to him, “the possibility of a military nuclear ambition to compete with Iran is real”. “Riyadh claims not to want to develop it but in the end, the quantities of uranium to which Saudi Arabia claims suggests that there would be a desire for military nuclear power. It would not be a good thing to have more another Muslim country that has that kind of weaponry, but we’re not there yet. And I doubt they have any interest in doing that.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in 2018 that he would develop nuclear weapons if regional rival Iran did. Saudi Arabia also aims to commercialize its uranium: the Ministry of Energy has planned the addition of 17 GW of nuclear capacity by 2040 and two 3.2 GW nuclear reactors should be brought online during the next decade.