US en­ergy secy cans In­dia trip, plans nu­clear talks with Saudis

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - World - Bloomberg let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

AP FILE

Rick Perry

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