By  Dr. Mansour Al-Maswari Mansour Al-Maswar — albawaba – ALBAWABA- In a significant development, the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of commencing nuclear operations, beginning with a research reactor. This comes as Saudi Arabia has openly expressed its intention to acquire nuclear power, with potential aspirations for a nuclear bomb, particularly in response to Iran’s capabilities. The revelation raises concerns about the broader implications for regional dynamics, especially in the context of a reported defensive agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The news also surfaces amid discussions about the potential normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Saudi Arabia is embarking on a nuclear power programme as part of the country’s plans to move from an oil-based economy toward a diversified power production. “The Kingdom has taken a very wise decision to add nuclear power to the options in this integrated energy mix,” the Director General said. “We have greatly intensified our cooperation in the past few years because of the faster pace with which Saudi Arabia is preparing itself for the introduction of nuclear power.”

In addition to meeting the Minister, Mr Grossi visited the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE), the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission (NRRC) headquarters, the NRRC laboratories and its nuclear and radiological Emergency Preparedness Centre.

He observed operations and received briefings on the details of Saudi Arabia’s plans towards its first power plant and how the Government prepares the necessary legal and regulative framework.

“I am very impressed by the degree of professionalism I see in the Saudi nuclear sector,” the Director General said. “I see a wide panoply of institutions that work very well together and that have a clear way forward, and my impressions are indeed very positive.”

The Director General also visited the Low Power Research Reactor at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). The reactor, which is not yet in operation, will provide technical experience and training opportunities for nuclear scientists and engineers. Mr Grossi underlined the essential role of this facility – the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia — in preparing for the nuclear power programme. “Saudi Arabia is at the doorsteps of nuclear operation starting with the research reactor and later with bigger facilities,” Mr Grossi said.” The workforce here, the professionals, the women and men that work in the Saudi nuclear sector are perfectly prepared to look toward this new chapter in the life of the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has sought the IAEA’s advice and invited multiple IAEA review and advisory missions on nuclear safety and nuclear power programme development.

“We have a programme of certain milestones that need to be followed and all of this is being applied here,” Mr Grossi said. “When the time comes, you will know that this was done in a very systematic, orderly way. I am very satisfied.”

The country recently announced it will rescind its small quantities protocol for countries with little to no nuclear material and facilities.

During Mr Grossi’s visit, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre and the IAEA signed an important agreement which formalized a 2.5 million USD contribution to IAEA’s Rays of Hope Initiative. Director General Grossi also visited the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, one of the top medical facilities in the country. The IAEA and the King Faisal Hospital have a strong cooperation, which is set to increase. Saudi Arabia has a comprehensive radiotherapy system and supports other IAEA Member States in improving their services through the IAEA’s Rays of Hope programme.