Babylon the Great to Build the Saudi Nuclear Horn

US still discussing nuclear technology sales with Saudi Arabia

Energy secretary Rick Perry says preventing weapons proliferation is a priority

Rick Perry, the US energy secretary, says the country’s interest in non-proliferation would make it a better supplier of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia than Russia or China ©

The US is still in talks with Saudi Arabia about a possible deal to sell it civil nuclear technology, as part of a strategy to boost US exports while helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions, energy secretary Rick Perry has said. Speaking at the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Mr Perry told the Financial Times that the talks were making progress “closer to one mile an hour than to Mach 1.2”, but said the US was working on a deal to support the kingdom’s plan to develop a nuclear power industry. He added that one priority for the US would be to ensure any deal did not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, saying that would be a greater risk if Saudi Arabia chose to buy its technology from Russia or China. “We’re still making progress, we’re still talking,” Mr Perry said. “Our intent is for them to be our partner as they build their nuclear energy.” The Trump administration’s moves towards a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia raised concerns highlighted in a report from Democrats in Congress last month, which said whistleblowers had warned of “chaos, dysfunction and backbiting” in the White House and “conflicts of interest” for some former officials. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about allowing Saudi Arabia to buy US nuclear technology. However, Mr Perry argued that the US interest in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons would make it a better supplier than other countries that have also made proposals for selling technology to Saudi Arabia, including Russia and China. “I make the argument to the leadership of Saudi Arabia that to send the right message to the world, you want to be working with someone who is a very strong proponent of non-proliferation,” he said. “China and Russia are not necessarily in that camp.” He indicated that he supported a plan for Saudi Arabia similar to the programme adopted by the neighbouring United Arab Emirates, which bought reactors from Kepco of South Korea that are now under construction. The UAE is not enriching its own uranium to fuel the reactors, a process that could allow it to develop nuclear weapons, but is instead buying fuel from international suppliers. Mr Perry said the administration’s support for nuclear exports was part of its strategy of encouraging sales of US technology and commodities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “You really can’t be serious about the climate and be against nuclear power,” he said. President Donald Trump is withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement, and has frequently expressed scepticism about the science of climate change. But Mr Perry said the US was developing and selling technologies that would give the world “some real options” for cutting emissions. “Whether it’s carbon capture, whether it’s nuclear, whether it’s battery storage — all of those are ways that the US is going to have a real influence and a positive influence on the climate,” he said. He added that US energy-related carbon dioxide emissions had fallen since 2007, in part because of the shift in power generation away from coal and towards gas unlocked by the shale revolution. “We’re less about signing agreements than we are about results,” he said. “And our results are not debatable; they’re real, they’re substantial.” Ted Halstead of the Climate Leadership Council, a group backed by many large companies that supports a carbon tax for the US, said the widespread enthusiasm for the Green New Deal — a radical plan for tackling the threat of climate change proposed by congressional Democrats — was forcing Republicans to address the issue. “Simply put, the Republican party is haemorrhaging young people,” he said. “Republicans are on the losing side of this issue, [and] you can’t be a competitive party without the next generation of voters.”

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