House to probe US nuclear technology sales to Saudi Arabia

Jack Unwin 20 February 2019 (Last Updated February 20th, 2019 16:37)

The US Government is looking to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia without the consent of Congress, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

House to probe US nuclear technology sales to Saudi Arabia
The US Government is looking to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia without the consent of Congress, according to a new report from congressional Democrats. Credit: The White House

The US Government is looking to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia without the consent of Congress, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

The sale would be illegal under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which requires congressional approval for the transfer of nuclear technology to a foreign country.

The report, “Whistle-blowers Raise Grave Concerns with Trump Administration’s Efforts to Transfer Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia”, is built from a number of testimonies by unnamed whistleblowers and prepared for House of Representatives chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

What the testimony says

The report alleges that US efforts to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia have been conducted from the start of the Trump administration.

The allegations revolve around IP3 International, a consortium of US companies that intends to build nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia.

Key supporters of IP3’s proposals include former National Security Advisor and IP3 advisor general Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee chairman Thomas Barrack, and National Security Council (NSC) senior director for Middle East and North African affairs Thomas Harvey.

Flynn had already made plans to develop “dozens of nuclear power plants” during the presidential transition period. These dozens then became“40 nuclear power plants” on 27 January 2017 according to the report, as Harvey asked NSC staff to add this information to a briefing package for Trump’s call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

NSC staff and other senior people within the administration informed Harvey that these plans would be potentially illegal and should not be included in the call.

Years in the making

After meeting Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March 2017, a White House statement announced: “A new United States-Saudi program…in energy, industry, infrastructure and technology worth potentially more than $200bn in direct and indirect investments within the next four years.”

Energy secretary Rick Perry is alleged to have become part of the project in 2018. During an interagency discussion in Riyadh, he was quoted as telling Saudi officials that it was important “to be perceived to be strong on non-proliferation.”

On 12 February 2019, President Trump participated in a White House meeting that the whistleblower alleges was initiated by IP3. During the meeting, Trump was reportedly “extremely supportive” of plans to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

The BBC reports that the Democrat-led House has launched an enquiry into the plans, and will look to investigate whether the Trump administration has acted “in the national security interests of the United States or, rather, [to] serve those who stand to gain financially.”

The White House has not as yet commented on this report.