China Helps Saudi Arabia in Building Uranium Yellowcake Extraction Facility
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China Helps Saudi Arabia in Building Uranium Yellowcake Extraction Facility 

The world’s largest oil-exporter Saudi Arabia, with the help of China, has built a facility for the extraction of uranium yellowcake – a potential precursor to fuel for a nuclear reactor. The facility has been built in a remote desert location near the small city of Al Ula.

The uranium yellowcake extraction facility has not been acknowledged publicly as of now, but it has already raised concerns among the officials and allies of the United States that Saudi’s budding nuclear program is expanding. The report by Wall Street Journal states that Riyadh is keeping an option open to develop nuclear weapons by constructing its uranium yellowcake extraction facility.

While the Saudi Energy Ministry has vehemently denied building a uranium ore milling facility, but accepted the fact that the kingdom contracted Chinese entities for uranium exploration within Saudi Arabia.

In 2018, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” Confirmation over the uranium yellowcake extraction facility within Saudi Arabia would raise concern among the US Congressmen, who already fear the nuclear ambitions of the kingdom.

Following a pact between Saudi Arabia and China in 2012 to cooperate on the peaceful development of nuclear energy, Riyadh signed agreements with China National Nuclear Corp and China Nuclear Engineering Group Corp.

Saudi Arabia’s construction of a research reactor has raised the risk of a potential nuclear arms race in the Gulf region as recently the UAE also started operating its first nuclear power station Barakah nuclear plant. Saudi Arabia also invited companies to bid on building two civilian nuclear power reactors – all this without allowing the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency to oversight and inspect.

Earlier last year, Saudi government’s whistle-blowers alerted the US House of Representatives that the Trump administration had bypassed the Congress to allow sales of nuclear technology to the kingdom without non-proliferation guarantees, which is the know-how that the technology would not be used to eventually produce a weapon.

In May 2019, a US congressional committee warned the Trump administration for allowing American companies to offer nuclear technologies to Saudi without obtaining non-proliferation guarantees.

Saudi Arabia’s production of uranium yellowcake poses threat to the entire Gulf region. It is especially alarming for the US arms control community.

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