Trump Administration: Selling Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia Is A-OK!

Photo: Andrew Cabellero-Reynolds/AP

Congrats to Saudi Arabia, who just got the go-ahead from the Trump administration to buy nuclear technology from U.S. companies, according to The Daily Beast. They report that the Department of Energy has authorized six requests from U.S. companies who want to do nuclear-related work in the Kingdom.

From The Daily Beast:

Federal law stipulates that companies obtain clearance from the U.S. government for exporting nuclear technology to or engaging in the production or development of special nuclear material in Saudi Arabia.

The authorizations—known as Part 810s, referring to a clause in federal regulations —allow U.S. companies to divulge specific details about plans for working in Saudi Arabia and certain information about the nuclear technology. For example, a company would need a Part 810 to transfer physical documents, electronic media, or the “transfer of knowledge and expertise” to Saudi Arabia, according to the Department of Energy.

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The current administration policy around Saudi Arabia’s nuclear capabilities is unclear. This is a particular concern after the murder of U.S. permanent resident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA connected to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

House Democrats claimed in February that White House officials have attempted to transfer nuclear information to Saudi Arabia without going through the proper channels.

“The whistleblowers who came forward have expressed significant concerns about the potential procedural and legal violations connected with rushing through a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” a report issued by House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings read.

“They have warned of conflicts of interest among top White House advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes,” Cummings continued. “They have also warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction, and backbiting. And they have warned about political appointees ignoring directives from top ethics advisors at the White House who repeatedly and unsuccessfully ordered senior Trump Administration officials to halt their efforts.”

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The companies who have been approved by the DOE began seeking contact with the Kingdom in November 2017. We don’t know which companies they are, and we probably won’t find out, since the companies requested that their names remain private.

But the company IP3, which includes former generals, diplomats, and energy experts, was mentioned in the House Oversight Committee report, which said that the company’s proposal was “not a business plan” but rather “a scheme for these generals to make some money.” Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn also apparently has ties to the company.

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“IP3 was formed as a bipartisan company to support the development of a public-private model for the peaceful introduction of nuclear power by the United States and its allies,” Mike Hewitt, CEO of IP3, told The Daily Beast. “There are concerns over Russia and China’s expansion into global nuclear power development and the inherent geo-political and national security issues. The Middle East is but one region where this competition is playing out and currently the United States and its industry are not competitive in this growing market.”

House Democrats have also expressed concern over providing Saudi Arabia with nuclear information that could help them develop a nuclear weapon.

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“One thing that is in our interest is to prevent Saudi Arabia from getting a nuclear weapon,” Rep. Brad Sherman said in a hearing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week. “What I’ve seen in this administration recently... is an effort to evade Congress and to some extent evade your department and provide substantial nuclear technology and aid to Saudi Arabia while [the country] refuses to abide by any of the controls we would like to see regarding reprocessing, enrichment.”

Pompeo responded that the State Department is considering assistance the U.S. can provide Saudi Arabia, and how to prevent them from getting a bomb.

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