Strengthening International Safeguards for Nuclear Technology: The Role of Saudi Arabia

This article discusses the growing concern regarding nuclear technology proliferation and the significance of promoting transparency and accountability in the use of nuclear technology. The article emphasizes Saudi Arabia’s role in advocating nuclear transparency and non-proliferation in the Middle East and beyond. While much attention has been paid to nuclear proliferation in Iran and Iraq, the article argues that Saudi Arabia has been neglected in this regard. The article also discusses Saudi Arabia’s position on nuclear non-proliferation and its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear technology. In addition, the article stresses the significance of international oversight to guarantee that Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program remains benign and transparent. The article argues that the international community must collaborate to enhance safeguards for nuclear technology and to promote transparency and accountability in order to prevent proliferation and maintain global security. Overall, the article offers significant insights into Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting nuclear non-proliferation and the significance of transparency and accountability in the use of nuclear technology.

Key Words: Nuclear technology, International safeguards, Saudi Arabia, Middle East, Non-proliferation treaty, Regional security

The question of nuclear technology and its potential for proliferation has been a longstanding concern for the international community. In light of recent events such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis, North Korean missile tests and US-Russia tussle, concerns of nuclear escalation are at an all-time high. As a result, there has been a growing emphasis on the importance of strengthening international safeguards for nuclear technology, with a focus on promoting transparency and accountability. Nuclear technology is a double-edged sword. While it has the potential to benefit humanity in many ways, including producing clean energy and providing medical treatments, it also poses significant risks if it falls into the wrong hands. Therefore, it is crucial to have strong international safeguards in place to ensure that nuclear technology is solely used for peaceful purposes.

One region that could possess potential nuclear threat in the future is the Middle East. The Middle East is an important region due to its abundant oil reserves and strategic location between Europe, Asia, and Africa. Several countries in the region have expressed an interest in developing nuclear energy programs as a means of diversifying their energy sources and meeting growing demand. However, the prospect of a nuclear-reliant Middle East raises concerns about regional security and the potential for nuclear proliferation. While much attention has been paid to nuclear proliferation in Iran and Iraq, Saudi Arabia has received startlingly little attention regarding nuclear proliferation and the role of Saudi Arabia in promoting transparency and accountability in nuclear technology has been overlooked.

As one of the important regional power in the Persian Gulf along with Iran and Turkey, the question of whether Saudi Arabia desires the capability to produce nuclear weapons has not been adequately addressed. While the majority of policymakers and experts believe that Saudi Arabia does not have a nuclear weapons program, other experts argue that the country possesses both the strategic motivation and financial means to pursue nuclear weapons. In this context, Saudi Arabia has an essential role to play in promoting transparency and accountability in the Middle East and Beyond in the use of nuclear technology.

Saudi Arabia’s Stance on Nuclear Non Proliferation

It is a widely held belief among policymakers and experts that Saudi Arabia does not possess a nuclear weapons program. This consensus is based on Saudi Arabia’s strong condemnation of nuclear weapons and the country’s claim that it has no intention of acquiring them. Additionally, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have long advocated for a Middle East devoid of nuclear weapons. However, some experts have pointed out that Saudi Arabia possesses both the strategic motivation and financial means to pursue nuclear weapons.

In reality, Saudi Arabia is both vulnerable and affluent, and it has long felt threatened by the revolutionary victory of its Shi’ite foe across the Gulf. This vulnerability, coupled with its significant financial resources, has led some experts to believe that Saudi Arabia may attempt to acquire nuclear weapons if its national security is compromised.

Despite these concerns, Saudi Arabia is a party to both the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA safeguards framework. The nation signed the NPT reluctantly, but this had nothing to do with a desire to develop nuclear weapons. Since joining the International Atomic Energy Agency, Saudi Arabia has worked hard to fulfill its obligations under the IAEA’s “Milestones Approach,” a three-step plan leading to the launch of a nuclear power facility. Saudi Arabia has also acknowledged that NPT signatories have the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

A significant portion of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear arsenal is motivated by its desire for renewable energy. The country has been constructing a clean and secure nuclear energy program for quite some time. In 2010, the nuclear research project was initiated to establish “a sustainable future for Saudi Arabia by constructing a substantial alternative energy capability supported by world-class local businesses.” To advance its nuclear reactor initiative, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has established King Abdul-Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). KACST collaborated with the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) and other foreign experts to design the Saudi project’s reactors, which will be used to realize the country’s 2030 vision for sustainable energy.

Saudi Arabia is committed to its national policy of openness, dependability, and security. In this context, the country is striving to develop peaceful nuclear applications in a variety of fields, including its national nuclear energy program. While there are rational considerations in favor of nuclear energy security for Saudi Arabia, it is highly unlikely that the country will opt for nuclear weapons. The negative international reaction to Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is likely to weaken rather than empower the country.

Saudi Arabia has articulated its position on nuclear security and is committed to its long-held goal of rendering the entire Middle East a nuclear-free zone and emphasizing the importance of adherence to the NPT. To achieve this objective, Saudi Arabia seeks international community support for its resolutions. Saudi Arabia emphasizes the significance of adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and safeguards its rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to invest in its natural resources in a nuclear-threat-free environment. Saudi Arabia urges the international community to work towards a nuclear-weapon-free world so that the conditions of the Treaty can be thoroughly implemented. The country urges all nations that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

However, it is also important to note that the Saudi nuclear program should be subject to international scrutiny to ensure that it remains peaceful and transparent. The international community must work together to strengthen safeguards for nuclear technology and promote transparency and accountability in order to prevent proliferation and maintain global security.

Implications for Regional Security

The prospect of a nuclear-reliant Middle East raises concerns about regional security and the potential for nuclear proliferation. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by any country in the region would likely trigger a nuclear arms race, with other countries feeling compelled to develop their own nuclear programs in response. This would increase the risk of nuclear accidents, miscalculation, and even nuclear war.

The fact that Saudi Arabia is located in such close proximity to other countries with nuclear capabilities, such as Pakistan and Israel, also raises concerns about the potential for conflict. Any incident involving nuclear weapons in the region would have far-reaching consequences for global security, given the importance of the Middle East in global energy markets and the potential for terrorism and other forms of instability in the region.


In conclusion, Saudi Arabia’s aspirations for a nuclear program raise concerns about regional security and the potential for nuclear proliferation. While the Kingdom has stated that its program is for peaceful purposes only, doubts remain due to its lack of transparency and its proximity to other countries with nuclear capabilities. The United States’ recent withdrawal from the JCPOA and its uncertain commitment to non-proliferation in the region only add to the uncertainty surrounding Saudi Arabia’s nuclear aspirations. Given the risks involved, it is imperative that the international community engage in cooperative efforts to monitor and regulate nuclear activities in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program.

Avinav Singh Khatri
Avinav Singh Khatri
AVINAV SINGH KHATRI is a research intern at Nepal Institute for International Co-operation and Engagement (NIICE) and holds a Master's degree in International Studies from Symbiosis School of International Studies, Pune. His research interests include political and peacebuilding affairs, governance, foreign policy, social justice, and humanitarian and development issues.