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.

Japanese police investigate online sale of uranium on Yahoo! auction website

Uranium yellow cakePolice in Japan are investigating how a man was able to offer uranium for sale through an online auction website operated by Yahoo!, a California-based provider of Internet services. Japanese news agencies reported on Friday that the alleged product was displayed packed inside a transparent glass tube on the online auctions site. It was advertised as “Uranium 99.9%”. There was no information about the sale’s starting price on Yahoo! Auctions. The website, Yahoo! Kantan Kessai, is a rare remnant of the California-based company’s worldwide auction service, which terminated its operations in most countries between 2002 and 2008. But smaller segments survive in Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.

In November 2017, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority was notified by a user that a product described as “Uranium 99.9%” was on offer on the auction website. After investigating the case, the agency notified the police in January of the following year, which in turn contacted Yahoo! and brought the auction to its attention. The incident was not disclosed to the media at the time, so that the police and intelligence services could investigate whether a network of individuals was involved in the case. Meanwhile, the seller and several individuals who had made bids on the product were arrested and questioned. The substance was confiscated and given to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency for tests. According to local media reports, initial tests conducted by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency showed that the substance is indeed radioactive. Further tests showed that the material is uranium, as advertised, though a question remains as to whether it is depleted uranium or uranium concentrate. It is not known whether the uranium is enriched (thus having an increased percent composition of uranium-235 through isotope separation) or depleted (the less radioactive byproduct of the process of isotope separation).

Reports also suggest that the main suspect in the case told authorities that he acquired the uranium from a seller located outside Japan, who sold it on an international auction website. Reports suggest that, depending on the outcome of ongoing laboratory results, the seller of the substance faces imprisonment of up to a year and a fine of up to ¥1 million (less than $10,000).

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 04 February 2019 | Permalink