By Mark Moore
September 15, 2020 | 3:16pm | Updated
The International Atomic Energy Agency is working with a Chinese-linked institute to find and develop uranium for Saudi Arabia even though the UN nuclear watchdog’s inspectors are not allowed in the kingdom, according to a report Tuesday.
The IAEA published a document showing it is helping the kingdom make nuclear fuel — a key component for nuclear power and weapons, Bloomberg News reported.
At the same time, Chinese geologists are working with their counterparts in Saudi Arabia to find uranium deposits in the country’s northwest, and promising locations were presented to the Saudis’ vice minister for mining affairs at the end of last year, according to a statement by the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, the report said.
The institute has cooperation agreements with the IAEA, Bloomberg reported.
“It’s very important that the agency is present and is engaged with any country that wants to perform any activity related to the nuclear fuel cycle,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.
Saudi Arabia has said it wants to develop uranium for peaceful uses, but Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has said it would develop nukes if regional rival Iran did.
Grossi also said the Vienna-based agency has given the Saudis limited information on how to make fuel from uranium and is negotiating with Saudi officials to allow inspectors to monitor how fuel is produced and used.
Grossi said the agency is considering rolling back those rules if it can determine the nuclear development is for peaceful purposes.
“I’m approaching them, telling them that in 2020 this is no longer adequate,” Grossi said. “We have to be up to a minimum standard.”
Saudi Arabia, which is coming close to completing the construction of its first reactor, is one of 31 nations that come under old IAEA regulations prohibiting inspectors.
The geology institute referred follow-up questions from Bloomberg to the China National Nuclear Corp.