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Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program gains momentum, first nuclear reactor nearing completion

Washington: A US daily has claimed that Saudi Arabia, which is preparing to sign a nuclear deal with the United States and European countries, completed the construction of its first nuclear project without the knowledge of the international community. Saudi is claimed to be constructing the plant in capital Riyadh while the project is believed to reach completion in one year. However, serious concerns are being raised over the matter since Saudi has built the plant without signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. A few months ago, Saudi had announced that it would develop nuclear arms if Iran did.

Over the last few months, the leading US newspaper acquired the satellite images of the project, through a computer program. The paper, has thus, claimed that Saudi was constructing a nuclear reactor. Also, the news report stated that the first Saudi nuclear reactor was near the ‘King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology’ in capital Riyadh. Since the last few weeks, significant developments were observed at the nuclear site, and the Saudi project is expected to complete by next year, asserted the daily.

Not much information was available on the nuclear facility from the satellite imagery, but Saudi appears to have challenged the international community by building the project without entering into any agreements on its nuclear program, alleged the daily. ‘Saudi will have to convince the international community that the project is for civilian purposes and will not be used for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. At the same time, no country will supply nuclear fuel to Saudi, unless it abides by all the regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’, suggested the news report.

The Saudi Ministry of Energy responded to the report stating that the project would only be used for civilian purposes. The department further stated that the facility was built in compliance with international agreements and its purpose and intent was to engage in strictly peaceful scientific, research, educational and training activities. Additionally, Saudi made an open appeal saying that anyone was welcome to visit the nuclear site.

Earlier, Saudi had announced about the construction of a nuclear reactor as also the signing an agreement for it with the western allies. At the time, Saudi had expressed its intention to use nuclear power as an alternative to conventional fuels. The kingdom had declared building a minimum of 16 nuclear reactors. Furthermore, Saudi had even negotiated with the United States for the purpose and reached upon an agreement. Nevertheless, Saudi was globally accused of pursuing the nuclear project with the sole objective of making nuclear weapons.

Last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had objected to the Iranian nuclear program. Prince Mohammed had asserted earlier that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, Saudi would follow suit. Reports had surfaced of Saudi having initiated moves in that direction. Saudi’s nuclear project is, therefore, being looked at in the light of the developments so far.

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