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Nuclear Gulf: Is Saudi Arabia pushing itself into a nuclear trap?

Nuclear-Gulf-Is-Saudi-Arabia-pushing-itself-into-a-nuclear-trap

Nuclear Gulf: Is Saudi Arabia pushing itself into a nuclear trap?

MBS is prepared to pursue nuclear weapons if Iran gets them. But could he end up making the kingdom a nuclear pawn?

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Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told a United States news outlet in 2018 that 'without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible' [File: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press]
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told a United States news outlet in 2018 that ‘without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible’ [File: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press]

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When countries start dabbling in nuclear energy, eyebrows raise. It’s understandable. Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons while allowing countries to pursue civilian nuclear programmes has proven a tough and sometimes unsuccessful balancing act for the global community.

So when atom-splitting initiatives surface in a region with a history of nuclear secrecy and where whacking missiles into one’s enemies is relatively common, it is not just eyebrows that are hoisted, but red flags.

Right now, warning banners are waving above the Arabian Peninsula, where the United Arab Emirates has loaded fuel rods into the first of four reactors at Barakah – the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant.

Barakah nuclear power station
Barakah is the first commercial nuclear power plant in the Arab world, and experts question why the UAE pursued nuclear energy over cheaper, safer renewable options more suited to the Gulf climate [File: Barakah Nuclear Power Plant/AFP]

Roughly 620 kilometres (388 miles) west, Saudi Arabia is constructing its first research reactor at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.

The UAE has agreed not to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. It has also signed up to enhanced non-proliferation protocols and even secured a coveted 123 Agreement with the United States that allows for the bilateral sharing of civilian nuclear components, materials and know-how.

But that has not placated some nuclear energy veterans who question why the Emirates has pushed ahead with nuclear fission to generate electricity when there are far safer, far cheaper renewable options more befitting its sunny climate.

Read the rest here.