U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is headed to London at the end of the week with a delegation charged with working towards a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia that spells out cooperation on domestic nuclear power while prohibiting work towards a nuclear military.
The wrinkle in the deal, as reported by the Associated Press, is that nations other than Iran see the eventual lifting of similar restrictions for Iran allowed under their multi-national agreement struck during the Barack Obma era eventually gives Iran greater leniency than the current 123 agreements allow. As such, Saudi Arabian officials have publicly said that they want the same level of restrictions as other countries. Similarly, the United Arab Emirates, which signed a 123 agreement in 2009, reacted to the Iran deal with a warning that it “no longer felt bound” to its agreement due to the lighter restrictions available to Iran, ironically the country the United States felt was the biggest threat in the region regarding its intentions to develop nuclear weapons.
Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said at a conference in Munich that “our objective is we want to have the same rights as other countries.”
At stake is the U.S. nuclear power industry's presence and contract viability in a region that has the wealth and the inclination to move towards a domestic nuclear power industry. The United Arab Emirates is constructing a four-unit nuclear power facility with South Korea's help. Several other countries, among them Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Egypt have expressed an interest in nuclear power. Jordan has established a Committee for Nuclear Strategy and an Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). Egypt set up its Atomic Energy Commission in 1955 and conducted a feasibility study in 2000, giving consideration to a dual purpose of electricity production and desalination. Israel, meanwhile, operates a 5 MW research reactor at the Sorerq Nuclear Research Center that is designated a laboratory designed to research medical and security applications for radioavtivity.
The leverage presented by Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is expected to bolster President Donald Trump's efforts to re-open negotiations on the Iran deal that he has repeatedly criticized. According to the AP, British, French and German officials have said they were receptive to the idea.
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