Saudi Arabia to build first nuclear research reactor

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on Monday laid the foundation stone for the kingdom to kick off the construction of it's first nuclear research reactor, state media said, as the kingdom seeks to change its energy mix. 

The reactor was among seven projects launched by the prince during a visit to Riyadh's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. 

SPA offered no details on when the research or non-power reactor -- typically used for research, development and education purposes -- would be built and at what cost. 

 Saudi Arabia currently draws on oil and natural gas to meet its own fast-growing power demand and desalinate its water. 

The world's top crude exporter harbours plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades for $80 billion as it seeks to diversify, despite concerns over nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. 

 Prince Mohammed said in March that if Iran develops a nuclear weapon, Riyadh will do so too.

 In an interview with CBS television, he likened regional rival Iran's supreme leader to Hitler, saying he "wants to create his own project in the Middle East". 

Riyadh held deep reservations over the 2015 accord aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions and hailed President Donald Trump's announcement in May that the United States was withdrawing from the deal.

 Monday's announcement comes as the US vowed to be "relentless" in countering Iran as sweeping new sanctions took effect

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