Saudi Arabia takes first step toward nuclear capability

The Saudi Arabian government has issued a “Request for Information” (RFI) from international suppliers for the construction of two nuclear power plants.

The move is the first step towards a formal tender.

Riyadh is considering building 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032, which is the equivalent of 17 reactors, making the purchase the best prospect for the industry since the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan.

“Saudi Arabia has just sent the request for information to various companies and it is being examined,” one industry source told Reuters, adding that firms had about two months to respond.

If Riyadh goes through with the purchase, it would become the second Arab country to adopt nuclear power. The United Arab Emirates is building four South Korean-designed reactors, the first of which is due to come online next year.

Analyst comment: The Saudis have hinted in the past they could pursue nuclear weapons at some point in the future, especially if Iran is permitted to develop them. A nuclear weapons arms race in the volatile, but oil-rich, Middle East is in not in anyone’s interests.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 4: What are the latest indicators of a new war in the Middle East?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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