The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has entered into talks with the U.S. over the development of a nuclear program and retained a prominent Atlanta-based law firm to help lobby the government on its behalf according to Foreign Agent Registration Act filings. The Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy will reportedly pay the law firm $450,000 per month for its services.
In an email sent to attorney David Kultgen, Daniel Crosby, partner at King & Spalding an international law firm specializing in medical, financial and energy practices, laid out terms of the agreement they struck with the Saudi Energy Ministry.
“Dear David:,” Crosby writes, “We have been asked to provide legal assistance to the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“MEIM”) for an initial term of approximately thirty days, which may be extended by email exchange.”
“Under this engagement, we will advise MEIM in connection with a potential bilateral agreement on cooperation with the United States concerning peaceful uses of nuclear energy under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (“123 Agreement”) and related legal matters concerning the development of a commercial nuclear program.”
“Our fees will be capped at $450,000 per 30-day period and we will work according to MEIM instructions. We will bill for our services at the end of the 30-day period, and MEIM agrees to pay such invoice promptly…If the terms are acceptable to MEIM, please confirm by return email,” Crosby concludes.
Kultgen responds, “Daniel: I understand the terms you have outlined to be acceptable to MEIM. David.”
The development of a nuclear program by Saudi Arabia is considered to be a ballast against Iran’s nuclear ambitions in the region, as well as a diversification play for internal energy use. So far, the U.S. has indicated an openness to the initiative.
Last month U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry cancelled a trip to India to attend meetings at the White House which allowed him to lead a U.S. delegation to London where talks with the Kingdom were being held. Saudi Arabia, according to reports, is looking to build sixteen nuclear power plants over the next twenty-five years at a cost of more than $80 billion.
U.S. policy prohibits cooperation on the development of nuclear technology with countries that have not signed agreements pledging not to use any potential program to develop nuclear weapons. So far, the Kingdom has refused to sign on to such a “123 agreement.”
The situation puts the Trump administration in an interesting situation: trying to land lucrative contracts for American business, while trying to limit nuclear proliferation in a volatile region. Any potential deal with the Kingdom would allow U.S. companies like nuclear powerhouse Westinghouse Electric, as well as others, to build the reactors.
Any agreement reached by the administration would have to ultimately be approved by Congress, which would have ninety days to deliberate on the deal.
Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts recently sent a letter to Secretary Perry, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking them for clarity on the administration’s plans vis a vis Saudi Arabia’s nuclear goals.
“Despite reports that the Trump administration is deliberating whether to compromise longstanding U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policies in order to secure a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia, Congress remains in the dark about what exactly is being considered, why we may be re-evaluating our nonproliferation objectives and standards, and how and when this information is being conveyed to Saudi Arabia and other countries around the world.”
The Senator asked Perry and Tillerson to respond to a series of questions about the negotiations. The Secretaries have not responded as of yet.