The Trump administration is considering forging a deal with Saudi Arabia allowing a financially strapped nuclear energy company to build plants in the Middle Eastern country.
Energy Department Chief Rick Perry will travel to London Friday to discuss with Saudi Arabian officials the prospect of building reactors in the kingdom, according to Tuesday Bloomberg report. The deal would also permit Saudi Arabia to enrich and reprocess uranium.
Some U.S. agreements prohibit the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium in exchange for the use of nuclear technology. Similar prohibitions scuttled nuclear deals during former President Barack Obama’s administration.
That was then; This is now. President Donald Trump’s administration, which has committed itself to protecting the coal and nuclear energy industries, wants to loosen those rules to help Westinghouse Electric and other companies win Saudi contracts.
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Saudi officials plan to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the World Nuclear Association, a group that analyzes nuclear energy trade.
Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March 2017, which placed two multi-billion dollar projects in the U.S. at risk at the time — the floundering nuclear energy firm racked up a debt of $9.8 billion. The company operated two enormous plants at the time, both of which struggled to perform up to industry standards after the bankruptcy.
The Vogtle project in eastern Georgia is roughly three years behind schedule and $3 billion over its original budget. The company’s other plant, the V.C. Summer project in South Carolina, is two years behind schedule and $4.2 billion over budget.
Congress must approve with whatever agreement is forged and lawmakers will have three months to weigh in on the deal. It could draw opposition from anti-nuclear energy advocates and some lawmakers.
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