Saudi Arabia’s plans to build a nuclear power plant will speed up the Kingdom’s economic development as it would diversify its over-reliance on crude oil, a Saudi energy expert told Sputnik in an interview on Tuesday.
“The decision to build a nuclear power plant in the kingdom is the result of serious research that confirmed the need for this step,” Saudi energy expert Said al-Shahrani told Sputnik.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched several new strategic projects in the country, including one to build a nuclear research reactor.
“The peaceful atom will spur development of several economic sectors such as energy, desalination, agriculture as well as oil and gas production,” al-Shahrani told Sputnik.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been planning to begin building a nuclear power plant with the help of U.S. technology, but earlier this year, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that the U.S. was not the only option for the Kingdom when it comes to developing nuclear energy projects.
Cooperation with the United States in the field of nuclear power is only possible for countries that sign the so-called 123 agreement, which stipulates a clear distinction between using nuclear technology for civil and for military purposes, and binds the signee to utilizing the technology for civil purposes only.
At the end of last month, a group of Republican Senators led by Marco Rubio urged U.S. President Donald Trump to halt talks on a nuclear energy agreement in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The Senators expressed concern that Saudi Arabia is refusing to commit to an agreement prohibiting it from pursuing uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons.
The Middle East and nuclear weapons is a combination that always draws media attention, just as it did earlier this year, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS in an interview that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”