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Fri 29 Mar 2019 01:12 AM

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US firms cleared for nuclear project work in Saudi Arabia

United States has given the green light to companies to work on six nuclear projects in Gulf kingdom

US firms cleared for nuclear project work in Saudi Arabia
The Trump administration has approved six applications to do initial nuclear work in Saudi Arabia and two in Jordan.

The United States has given the green light to companies to work on six nuclear projects in Saudi Arabia, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday, despite lawmakers' worries that the kingdom could seek weapons.

Questioned during a Senate hearing, Perry confirmed that the Trump administration has approved six applications to do initial nuclear work in Saudi Arabia and two in Jordan.

Perry, who said the Energy Department approved 37 of the 65 applications it received globally since 2017, promised the United States was committed to ensuring the Saudis do not reprocess spent fuel to make nuclear weapons.

"What I'm really concerned about, senator, is that if the United States is not the partner with Saudi Arabia, (or) for that matter Jordan," Perry said, "they will go to Russia and China for their civil nuclear technology."

"I can assure you that those two countries don't give a tinker's damn about nonproliferation," he said.

"We've got a history of nonproliferation, and nobody in the world will do it better than us."

The approvals, first reported Wednesday by news site The Daily Beast, were not earlier announced, with Perry saying the companies wanted to shield proprietary information.

But Democratic lawmakers have voiced alarm that the Trump administration is rushing in secret to approve civilian nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia even though the kingdom -- the world's largest oil exporter -- has not sought a so-called Section 123 agreement, under which a country assures the peaceful use of technology.

US companies cannot legally transfer nuclear material to countries without Section 123 agreements.

President Donald Trump has pursued a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, saying openly that the kingdom was good for US business.

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