Satellite photos show nearly completed nuclear reactor in Saudi Arabia

Saudi nuclearSatellite photos show that Saudi Arabia is edging closer to completing the construction of a nuclear reactor in Riyadh. This development continues to prompt concerns that the country may be inching closer to building nuclear weapons. The oil kingdom is a signatory to the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). But in 2011, in a document known as Vision 2030, the Saudi leadership announced that it would seek to “diversify” its energy resources by building a series of nuclear reactors.

Last week year (thanks, S.K. for the correction -ed.), Bloomberg published a series of photographs showing the progression of Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactor facility, which is located at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Riyadh. The facility is being built by INVAP, a nuclear reactor construction firm which is owned by the government of Argentina. At least six American companies have been authorized by the US Department of Energy to participate in the project in various ways.

The photographs published by Bloomberg showed that the construction project, which was initiated in April 2017, was progressing with uncharacteristic speed, and was in all likelihood nearing completion. Notably the steer vessel, which will eventually contain the reactor’s nuclear fuel, was almost complete.

Currently the oil Kingdom observes the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “small quantities protocol”, which exempts countries in possession of non-existent or negligible quantities of nuclear material from undergoing inspections. But once the KACST facility becomes operational, Saudi Arabia would be obligated to open it up to international inspectors.

The Saudi monarchy insists that the purpose of its nuclear program is peaceful and claims that it complies with international agreements. It also claims that it will make all its nuclear facilities available to inspectors, and that it is honoring nuclear non-proliferation treaties, including the (NPT). However, in 2018 the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, told the American television channel CBS that the oil kingdom would “follow suit as soon as possible” if its regional rival, Iran, developed a nuclear arsenal.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 April 2020 | Permalink | Research credit: J.R.