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The Saudis quietly launch a nuclear spending spree

While efforts continue to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia has been busy building up its own nuclear capabilities

As US Secretary of State John Kerry leads the P5+1 group – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany –  in last-ditch talks aimed at thwarting any ambitions Iran may have to build a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia has been on a hectic multi-billion dollar spending spree in the global nuclear technology marketplace.

The latest recipient of Saudi largesse is France. It just inked a deal that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius boasted was part of a package “worth $12 billion,” ahead of a ceremony between President Francois Hollande and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

The French and the Saudis will undertake feasibility studies aimed at securing contracts for two nuclear reactor facilities to be built by Areva, a French company that has struggled to secure export sales for its EPR reactor.

That followed hard on the heels of a deal with Russia to cooperate on nuclear energy development.

Add that to a similar agreement signed with South Korea in early March, as well as deals with China and Argentina, and the Saudis are well on their way to achieving their ambitious goal of building 16 nuclear reactors by 2032.

At a price of roughly $2 billion per reactor, to say nothing of extremely lucrative maintenance deals once the facilities are in place, the world’s builders of nuclear reactor plants are almost falling over themselves wooing Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis make a cogent argument that they need to move beyond oil dependency in generating power. Solar and nuclear are the way forward. Fair enough. Saudi Arabia has a burgeoning population with a near insatiable appetite for cheap energy and a wanton disregard for conservation.


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