Jerusalem: A new nuclear facility is reportedly being built in the Saudi desert with Chinese help and Israel has privately expressed concerns to the US regarding the development, Israeli officials said.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that the Saudi with assistance from China has started building a secret facility in the desert near Riyadh to produce yellow cake, a basic material for uranium enrichment.
Israeli defense and intelligence officials raised concerns with their U.S. counterparts.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said: “There are worrying signs about what the Saudis might be doing, but it is not exactly clear to us what’s going on in this facility.”
“The U.S. and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also don’t have a clear picture about what’s going on there, and they are in the process of clarifying it with the Saudis,” the official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is carefully handling the matter to avoid damaging relations with both Saudi Arabia and China, said Israeli officials to Axios.
Secret ally against Iran
Saudi Arabia is one of Israel’s main secret allies against Iran and Israel hopes the kingdom will follow the United Arab Emirates in normalizing relations with Israel, said Axios.
The Israeli intelligence community, the foreign and the defense ministries, following the issue are instructed by Netanyahu’s office to keep the discussions confidential.
Israeli officials believe that the Saudis decided to work with China on the new nuclear facility as China don’t require assurances that nuclear technology will be used only for peaceful purposes whereas the U.S. strictly conditions any nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia on such assurances.
The production of yellow cake is a preliminary phase in the refinement of uranium. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty does not compel the Saudis to update the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) about the existence of such a facility.