Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month and discussed with officials there bids made by Westinghouse Electric Co. and other U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in that country. According to Bloomberg News, this would allow the enrichment of uranium as part of that deal. In the past, U.S. agreements have prohibited the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, thereby negating dealmaking during the Obama years to use American nuclear technology in the Oil Kingdom. 

The Trump administration is seeking to ease the restrictions so as to allow American companies to do business in Saudi ARabia. Discussion about nuclear cooperation agreement -- a 123 Agreement for the section of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act that requires it -- will be held at the White House on Wednesday, read the report. 

Should the U.S. companies win their bids, Trump would thus be able to deliver on a promise of revitalizing the American nuclear industry and compete with Chinese and Russian counterparts. The Saudis are planning to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Westinghouse is now a subsidiary of the Japan-based Toshiba Corp., going bankrupt in March after it experienced delays in producing its AP1000 reactors at two U.S. plants. After it declared bankruptcy, Westinghouse will shift its focus to markets outside of the U.S. Its technology is used in more than half the world’s nuclear power plants. Building plants in Saudi Arabia would give Westinghouse a new market. 

Toshiba announced in May that the Westinghouse Nuclear business experienced $6.3 billion in losses, primarily stemming from the purchase of the construction company that is building its plants in South Carolina and Georgia. Thousands of Westinghouse employees were laid off this year.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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