Washington (September 18, 2019) – Today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to urge the Trump administration to halt civil nuclear cooperation negotiations with Saudi Arabia. The Senators write that seeking a nuclear cooperation agreement with Riyadh endangers U.S. national security by rewarding Saudi Arabia’s disregard for fundamental human rights and humanitarian standards, especially if done without a Saudi commitment to not enrich uranium nor reprocess spent fuel on its territory. The letter follows an alarming statement by the Saudi energy minister that Riyadh intends to enrich uranium on its territory. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stated publicly that Saudi Arabia would seek to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran were to “develop” a nuclear bomb.

“Sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, especially without adequate safeguards, will give Riyadh the tools it needs to turn the Crown Prince’s nuclear weapons vision into reality,” wrote the Senators. “It will also fail to promote U.S. leverage or influence.”


“If the Trump administration turns a blind eye to the Kingdom’s behavior at home and abroad while concluding an agreement that could fast-track its potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon, Congress will reject any such agreement,” conclude the Senators in the letter.


A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

In the letter, the Senators ask for a response to questions including:

  • What is the current state of civil nuclear cooperation negotiations with Saudi Arabia? How will the Saudi energy minister’s statement regarding his government’s intention to enrich uranium change your approach?
  • Do your Departments agree that a 123 agreement reviewed by Congress is the sole mechanism through which the executive branch has the authority to approve the sharing of nuclear technology with any country?
  • What, specifically, are the non-proliferation shortcomings of (a) Chinese nuclear cooperation; and (b) Russian nuclear cooperation in comparison to U.S. nuclear cooperation?
  • How do your Departments assess the likelihood that Saudi Arabia would engage in civil nuclear cooperation with (a) China, given safety concerns regarding its reactors; and (b) Russia, given that Moscow has supplied Saudi Arabia’s rival Iran with nuclear technology?

In February, Senators Markey and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Congressman Brad Sherman (CA-30), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation, and Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03) introduced the Saudi Nuclear Nonproliferation Act that would increase Congressional oversight over any civil nuclear cooperation agreement.