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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Good question!

Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey asks a good question in an op-ed in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal: Why is Bush helping Saudi Arabia build nukes (Hat Tip: Hot Air)?
Last month, while the American people were becoming the personal ATMs of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Saudi Arabia signing away an even more valuable gift: nuclear technology. In a ceremony little-noticed in this country, Ms. Rice volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure. While oil breaks records at $130 per barrel or more, the American consumer is footing the bill for Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia has poured money into developing its vast reserves of natural gas for domestic electricity production. It continues to invest in a national gas transportation pipeline and stepped-up exploration, building a solid foundation for domestic energy production that could meet its electricity needs for many decades. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, would require enormous investments in new infrastructure by a country with zero expertise in this complex technology.

Have Ms. Rice, Mr. Bush or Saudi leaders looked skyward? The Saudi desert is under almost constant sunshine. If Mr. Bush wanted to help his friends in Riyadh diversify their energy portfolio, he should have offered solar panels, not nuclear plants.
You might respond that yes, the Saudis would like to develop nuclear weapons and that the cause of that ambition is Iran. But does that mean that the Saudis ought to be allowed to go nuclear?
The Bush administration argues that Saudi Arabia can not be compared to Iran, because Riyadh said it won't develop uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing, the two most dangerous nuclear technologies. At a recent hearing before my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman shrugged off concerns about potential Saudi misuse of nuclear assistance for a weapons program, saying simply: "I presume that the president has a good deal of confidence in the King and in the leadership of Saudi Arabia."

That's not good enough. We would do well to remember that it was the U.S. who provided the original nuclear assistance to Iran under the Atoms for Peace program, before Iran's monarch was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Such an uprising in Saudi Arabia today could be at least as damaging to U.S. security.

We've long known that America's addiction to oil pays for the spread of extremism. If this Bush nuclear deal moves forward, Saudi Arabia's petrodollars could flow to the dangerous expansion of nuclear technologies in the most volatile region of the world.

While the scorching Saudi Arabian sun heats sand dunes instead of powering photovoltaic panels, millions of Americans will fork over $4 a gallon without realizing that their gas tank is fueling a nascent nuclear arms race.
I am seriously concerned over the prospect that the Saudis could get nuclear weapons. Like Iran, it is possible that the first place they would turn them would be at Israel. I am also concerned over the prospect of other Arab countries - like Egypt or Syria - could get nuclear weapons. But in the Saudis' case, the lack of a need for nuclear power is so blatant that it cries out. They have abundant oil and natural gas stores and a huge amount of solar power that could be harnessed for far less than developing nuclear power would cost. They are the most energy-rich country in the world. So why the rush to nuclear energy? The answer seems obvious.


At Michelle Malkin's site, See-Dubya has a good comment on the Markey article (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).


At 6:27 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israeli dithering has made the Sunni Arabs rush to seek their own security in the face of the threat posed by Iran. If there was a case for preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, thwarting Iran's ambitions to get the bomb is of the highest importance.


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