Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday laid the foundation stone for the kingdom’s first nuclear research reactor, Saudi Press Agency reported.
Salman launched seven projects in renewable energy, atomic energy, water desalination, genetic medicine and the aircraft industry during his visit to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh on Monday, reported Al Jazeera.
In March, the crown prince had announced that Saudi Arabia would develop nuclear weapons in the event that Iran headed in that direction. “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” he told CBS News.
Salman had then denied that Iran was a rival to Saudi Arabia. He said that Iran’s Army was not among the top five armies in West Asia, and that his country’s economy was larger than Iran’s.
The International Atomic Energy Agency in 2017 said the Saudi government had invited proposals for the construction of two nuclear power reactors. The kingdom is considering to build 17.6 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors, making it one of the biggest such projects in the world.
The move towards nuclear energy is an effort by the kingdom to reduce the amount of crude it uses locally to generate electricity in order to allow it to sell more of it overseas, Reuters reported.