US energy secy cans India trip, plans nuclear talks with Saudis
WASHINGTON: US energy secretary Rick Perry will travel to London to discuss nuclear energy with officials from Saudi Arabia on Friday as the Trump administration pursues a deal to build reactors in the kingdom, according to two people familiar with the plans.
Perry scrapped a trip to New Delhi to accommodate meetings at the White House this week, creating an opening for him to lead an inter-agency delegation to London, said the people, who asked not to be named to discuss administration strategy.
The Trump administration is considering permitting Saudi Arabia to enrich and reprocess uranium as part of a deal that would allow American companies to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East kingdom.
The meetings in London between Perry and Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy and industry Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih are seen as a critical step in months of ongoing discussions over a potential nuclear cooperation agreement, bringing together key deal makers from each country.
Some US agreements with other countries have prohibited the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium in exchange for the use of nuclear technology, and that had scuttled negotiations for Saudi projects during the Obama administration.
The Trump administration is mulling whether to ease that requirement now as a way to help Westinghouse and other companies win Saudi contracts. Saudi Arabia plans to construct 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.
The energy department confirmed the cancellation of Perry’s India trip but a spokesman did not reply to a question about the London talks.
Any agreement they reach must be approved by Congress, which will have 90 days to weigh in. The potential deal has drawn opposition from anti-nuclear proliferation advocates and some lawmakers.