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Thu 12 Mar 2015 10:29 AM

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Saudi Arabia signs nuclear deal with South Korea

$2bn deal to build two nuclear reactors in the kingdom has heightened fears of a nuclear-arms race in the region in retaliation for allowing Iran to maintain part of its nuclear program

Saudi Arabia signs nuclear deal with South Korea
(Image for illustrative purposes only)

Saudi Arabia has reportedly signed a nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea, a move that has heightened fears of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East amid discussions over Iran’s program.

The agreement is being viewed by some in the US and among its allies as retaliation for an agreement between world powers and Tehran that may allow the later to maintain part of its nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al Faisal, has publicly warned in recent months that Riyadh would match whatever the nuclear capabilities Iran is allowed to maintain as part of any final agreement, presently being negotiated.

This could include the ability to enrich uranium and to harvest the weapons-grade plutonium discharged in a nuclear reactor’s spent fuel, WSJ said.

The kingdom has been critical of the US-led negotiations with Iran, which US officials have said would allow Tehran to continue to produce nuclear fuel but in a limited capacity and under strict international monitoring.

Concerns have been raised recently about a possible nuclear-arms race erupting in the Middle East, led by Saudi Arabia’s regional rivalry with Iran, which has reportedly been playing out in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia also has a military alliance with nearby Pakistan, a nuclear-armed state with a history of proliferating military technologies.

The official Saudi Press Agency said the memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabia and South Korea included a plan to study the feasibility of building two nuclear reactors worth $2 billion over the next 20 years.

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vvv 5 years ago

A nuclear reactor can be built and operated with little risk of nuclear bomb proliferation.

Enrichment of uranium can be prevented if (just in like many other countries) the uranium fuel is imported from other countries.

And only special types of reactors produce weapons grade plutonium. Just make sure the type of reactor built is not one of those. The usual light water reactors like the ones south korea uses do not produce weapons grade plutonium. Only reactor grade plutonium which cannot be refined into weapons grade.