Expert: Graphics Show Construction of first Saudi reactor

Saudi Arabia is about a year away from finishing the building of its atomic reactor, according to Google satellite images characterized by a nuclear specialist who said Thursday the construction so far appears to be very small in dimension and planned for training and research purposes.

Still, Robert Kelley said before the kingdom can insert atomic fuel to the reactor, it would have to abide by an agreement which requires inspections by the U.N. atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Kelley, a veteran of the U.S. Department of Energy and a former manager of atomic inspections at the IAEA who is currently based in Vienna, was first to identify the pictures of this reactor website in Riyadh at the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST).

The Associated Press couldn’t immediately reach spokespeople in the Energy Ministry or KACST for comment.

Kelley said it has been surprising to him”the way non-transparent” the kingdom was in the process of constructing the reactor and”how they look quite cavalier about modifying their arrangements with the IAEA.”

Kelley referred to arrangements the kingdom has signed. The kingdom consented to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty three decades past. Back in 2005, it signed a deal with the IAEA known as the”small quantities protocol” that makes it possible for countries with negligible nuclear programs to be exempt from regular inspections or nuclear monitoring.

However, once nuclear fuel has been brought to run this little reactor, inspections by the IAEA will be demanded, Kelley stated.

“It’s simply they’re crossing a threshold in terms of their requirements,” Kelley said, explaining the significance of the building of this reactor, which is significantly more compact than those that the kingdom has stated it needs to build for energy purposes.

The sort of reactor being built as stated by the satellite images is employed by technicians for learning and training purposes.

“The reactor’s in the bottom of an open tank full of water 10 meters (32 ft ) high. It is very, very small,” Kelley said, adding that the core of the reactor is about the extent of a gallon-sized paint could.

He said the Argentinian government-owned company INVAP is building the Saudi reactor. Before Argentina brings fuel to Saudi Arabia to its reactor Kelley said.

“I think it’s a 100 percent certainty that Argentina isn’t going to provide uranium fuel into a nation that does not possess a safeguards agreement in force,” he further added.

Meanwhile, the Trump government last week said it approved seven programs for U.S. businesses to sell nuclear energy technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia. Republican and Democratic lawmakers, but have voiced concerns that Saudi Arabia might create nuclear weapons if the U.S. technologies is transferred without proper safeguards.

The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of saudi Arabia has not ruled out creating an atomic weapon. He told CBS last year,”Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to get some atomic bomb, but with no doubt if Iran developed an atomic bomb, so we’ll follow suit as soon as possible.”