Days after threatening to make nuclear bombs, the Saudi crown prince boasts about the kingdom’s rich uranium reserves, saying Riyadh wants to have the ability to enrich its own uranium for use in the nuclear reactors to be built on Saudi soil.
In a lengthy meeting with the staff of The Washington Post, Mohammed bin Salman said his country held five percent of the world uranium reserves.
“If we don’t make use of our uranium it is as if we have abandoned the use of oil,” he added.
The kingdom seeks to set up 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion.
Bin Salman said his main concern was being able to enrich and use Saudi Arabia’s own uranium for use in power reactors, rather than buying it from abroad.
The United States has resumed talks with Riyadh to secure a lucrative deal for the construction of the reactors. China and Russia are vying with the US to build components of new nuclear power plants in the kingdom.
The talks were frozen under the former US administration after the Saudis refused to accept Washington’s non-proliferation “gold standard” for civil nuclear cooperation deals.
The standard prohibits the recipient of the technology from enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium, which could be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons.
On Sunday, the Saudi crown prince told CBS in an interview that Riyadh would be quick to develop nuclear bombs if Iran did so.
The comments came amid warnings that Riyadh’s refusal to accept restrictions on uranium enrichment and plutonium extraction meant it sought to keep a nuclear weapons option open.
On March 1, the Foreign Policy magazine published a piece, in which it enumerated many reasons why Saudi Arabia should not be given an easy path to nukes.
“Saudi Arabia is neither a stable state nor a benign actor in the Middle East that deserves US coddling,” said the piece, warning Washington against standing by Riyadh in its deadly war on Yemen and zeal for confronting Iran.
Riyadh is also a staunch critic of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world countries that placed certain limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for removal of nuclear-related sanctions against the Islamic Republic.