Mike Flynn’s Nuclear Adventure – The Companies


Since elements of the story first appeared, I have been intrigued by the idea that Michael Flynn wanted to sell nuclear reactors to the Saudis. Too much of it doesn’t make sense and still doesn’t. A few things I’ve wondered about:

  • Flynn has no experience with nuclear reactors.
  • Why nuclear reactors? There are a great many problems in selling in building them.
  • Why Russian reactors?
  • Why is the administration so persistent in pushing this deal?

Most importantly, is this activity connected to other varieties of Trumpian corruption?

A simple theory can explain this. The Saudis want nuclear reactors to eventually build a nuclear weapons program. Flynn was at the head of a group of Trump-connected grifters who wanted to make money from that desire. Informed by a profound ignorance of nuclear economics and nonproliferation, it explains everything in a general way, but others also have the uneasy feeling that it’s more than that.

A few years back, I looked at Russian ambition to sell nuclear reactors. Reactors are one of the few manufactured export products Russia has on offer. They were so eager to sell the reactors that the business model they developed was that Russia would provide the up-front costs of building the reactor, which the customer country could then pay back out of electricity profits. That would make it possible for smaller, poorer countries to increase their electrical power capacity.

Something seemed fishy about that to me, too. I added up all the deals Russia had made, and it looked like they would bankrupt the country. I posted it, but the post is lost to internet decay. Since then, some of the deals have come apart, and others are moving slowly enough that they no longer look like Russia will go bankrupt from that any time soon.

Saudi Arabia wanted 16 reactors at the time. The price of oil was high, and they were feeling wealthy. Besides whatever proliferation ambitions they may harbor, it can be argued that some nuclear power makes sense for Saudi Arabia, although 16 reactors seemed like a lot. After the price of oil cratered, that number went ‘way down. Maybe four max.

Several suppliers are plausible. South Korea is building a group of four nuclear reactors in the UAE. The United States and Russia are eager to sell their reactors. China is building a great many at home and wants to be part of the market.

Dan Yurman follows the nuclear reactor business. He’s also been intrigued by the implausibilities of this story and has written in a great deal of detail. Here’s one of his contributions. He’s worth following (@djysrv) for more. We continue to discuss this behind the scenes.

I hope to write a series of posts on this story in more detail than my earlier posts (here, here, and here). I’ll start by looking at the various companies involved with Flynn and still pushing the idea after he was indicted. Here is the Washington Post to bring you up to date.

Washington, DC, abounds with companies whose purpose is unclear. It is often described as “consulting,” sometimes with a very general description of what they consult about. They exist to obtain government contracts.

Some have some expertise in some areas, but they do not confine their bidding on contracts to those areas, being confident that they can subcontract to firms with technical know-how if they win the contract. I’ve had them respond to my requests for proposals. I avoided them; they introduce another layer of profit-taking where communications can be garbled.

The companies involved in the attempt to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis without appropriate approvals seem to be of this type.

Flynn listed Iron Bridge Group and X-Co Dynamics on one of his disclosure forms. I haven’t been able to find anything about them on the internet. ProPublica would like to hear from you if you know anything about them.

There is a bit more about ACU Strategic Partners. They hired Flynn in 2015 to develop a plan to work with Russia to sell nuclear reactors “throughout the Middle East.” On Inauguration Day, according to a whistleblower, Flynn texted Alex Copson of ACU that the sanctions would be coming off Russia soon.

Let’s look at the ACU website. On the front page is “International Super Consortium: A TVA Based Model Accelerating The Industrialization And Security Of The Middle East Region.” That’s all – it doesn’t link to anything. Under “News,” several CSIS reports are listed, most authored by Anthony H. Cordesman. No officers of the corporation are listed. An email form completes the website. Copson has been described as  managing director of ACU. Thomas Cochran is mentioned as an “ACU scientist.” I would like to know if this is the Cochran of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who played a role in setting up cooperation with Russia on loose nukes in the 1990s.

The IP3 website is more extensive. It includes a management team, a board of directors, and a board of advisors. Most are on multiple boards. Expertise on nuclear power plants and nonproliferation is thin. Links are to short biographies at the website.

Management Team

Board of Directors

Advisory Board

Two have experience with nuclear power; there is more expertise on various aspects of security. The two former congressmen are Democrat and Republican, and Ross is balanced by Asali in Middle East concerns. That sort of balance is useful in obtaining government contracts.

The website is not extensive. It includes an “About” page, which contains a short mission statement and promotes nuclear power for peace, power, and prosperity. The page also links to a “vision for a new public-private strategy in the Middle East,” hosted outside the site.

Emails from Bud McFarlane quoted in the House Oversight Committee report released this week have an address at the United States Energy Security Council (USESC), which promotes nuclear energy.

McFarlane and Alexander, of the IP3 board, are also on the USESC board, with McFarlane as Co-Chair. Most of the members are Republican or Republican-leaning. According to the website, “The Issue” is reducing the strategic importance of oil. However, nuclear power is not strongly promoted, and the statement is vague about exactly how that objective is to be achieved.

Listed as advisors are Anne Korin and Gal Luft, Co-Directors of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, and David M. Sweet of the World Alliance for Decentralized Energy. The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security seems to be a creature of the USESC.

McFarlane pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress as part of the Iran-Contra cover-up and was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush. Another recycled Republican miscreant.

No answers, sorry, only questions. More to come.


Top photo from ProPublica.


Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.

99 replies
  1. 1
    Anonymous At Work says:

    Also, the amount of such deals is staggering. The amount is because the complexity of such deals creates a lot of checks, verifications, etc. And because the technology is sensitive. Flynn might not have looked beyond the bottom-line figure and what he calculated he could skim.

  2. 2

    @Anonymous At Work: The complexity of such deals also opens the opportunity for money laundering.

  3. 3
    Mike in NC says:

    Several years ago I was working as a contractor at GE Hitachi, where they were in the process of designing nuclear power plants for Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, as well as a few domestic projects. Bottom line is that it takes a long time to build these things, as in sometimes 10+ years. If Flynn and company were looking for a quick, lucrative payoff, they were in the wrong industry.

  4. 4
    Hoodie says:

    It doesn’t have to be about weapons development, although the Saudis may view it that way. The deal with these high level grifters is to find the biggest pool of dumb money they can find and milk it to the max. Nuclear reactors are a perfect model for grift, even better than weapons sales. The are massive projects that provide ample opportunities for skimming on consulting contracts, construction overruns, etc. They take forever to build and, after they are commissioned, the buyer is committed to vast costs associated with training, maintenance and waste disposal. The Saudis have decades worth of oil reserves to pay for it all. We’re talking a gravy train that could last 50 years or more.

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    There’s a lot of money, there’s a lot of Russians, and there’s a lot of grift. At this point, I’d just idly wonder where the condos are being built. But maybe that would be a little mean.

  6. 6
    suezboo says:

    I am sorry, Cheryl, I do not have your knowledge, experience and investigative skills. I can but admire them.I do know that SAfrica inked a deal with Russia to buy nuclear reactors and all the experts said it was a) far too many b) far too expensive and the wrong type of reactor anyway. The whole deal came under scrutiny during our recent corruption purges and has now been, as far as I know, cancelled by our new president because of the bribery involved in its acceptance. Phew.

  7. 7
    artem1s says:

    gotta ask if this is in any way linked to the wingnut’s obsession with the not-sale of uranium conspiracy? mining ore and drilling is also something Russia is still good at, particularly in extreme climate conditions. Putin has been trying to manipulate a lot of commodities markets where their investments are now losing money – they bet on military strife and energy inefficiencies rather than tech improvement that will radically change existing markets. Diamond and gold markets is another place where you see weird stuff going on because the Soviets haven’t recouped the investments they made during Glasnost.

  8. 8
    germy says:

    @Mike in NC:

    If Flynn and company were looking for a quick, lucrative payoff, they were in the wrong industry.

    I agree, but it makes more sense if we consider Ms. Rofer’s comment #2 above.

  9. 9
    Anonymous At Work says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: True, but the more agencies get involved, the more people who may notice the issue. Also, anyone with billions to purchase nuclear reactors with plans to convert the technology illegally to manufacture nuclear weapons? Not someone you steal from unless your ninja-assassins > his ninja-assassins.

  10. 10
    Quinerly says:

    OT Bob Kraft busted for soliciting a prostitute in Florida. Apparently, there’s tape.

  11. 11

    @suezboo: Yes. That’s one of the Russian deals that fell through.

  12. 12
    Another Scott says:

    @Mike in NC: Unless the point was the money and not the reactors, e.g. as Cheryl says in #2…

    Too much of our modern economy is made up of people making a quick buck while dumping the actual work and risk on others. E.g. loan origination fees that helped blow up the housing bubble. Why hold onto a 30 year mortgage when you can make a tidy profit from fees and dump it on someone else?

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these “consulting companies” exist to open doors and lobby congress, and get paid for that, rather than actually have an interest in whatever the people are ultimately selling. They aren’t getting paid because they know how to design and operate reactors, they’re getting paid because they know the people in the chain of approval for writing the checks.

    (Just my suppositions.)


  13. 13

    @Hoodie: Agree. If that’s the basic grift, there’s even more to it.

    @artem1s: I don’t see a direct connection to the Uranium One situation, which I think is what you’re talking about. But it may emerge as I do more looking.

    I have a followon post in mind that will lay out the events since 2015, which I haven’t seen any official newspeople do yet.

  14. 14
    debit says:

    @Quinerly: It’s like the universe is making up for denying me Roger Stone in jail.

  15. 15
    Yarrow says:

    Cheryl, are you following this story out of South Carolina?

    Federal contractors at the Savannah River Site accepted tickets to University of Alabama football games, the Masters golf tournament and NASCAR races, along with YETI coolers, hunting rifles and cellphones, in exchange for handing out work at the nuclear storage facility, a new federal lawsuit alleges.

    The cost of those kickbacks was then charged to taxpayers, according a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    The contractors — Areva and Chicago Bridge & Iron — were hired to build a plant that would turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear power plants, but instead they stand accused of overlooking a scheme that bilked taxpayers out of $6.4 million.

    Seems to be a big mess. Apparently Lindsey Graham was a big supporter of the project.

  16. 16
    LivinginExile says:

    Why does the name Anthony Cordesman ring a bell?

  17. 17

    @Yarrow: Yes. I’ve been following that one for a while. It’s garden-variety incompetence and corruption.

  18. 18
    Quinerly says:

    @debit: TPM has a story up. It was in a massage parlor.

  19. 19
    germy says:


    Adam Schefter just said on SportsCenter that a source told him Kraft is "not the biggest name" caught up in this sting. ……………— Ryan Glasspiegel (@sportsrapport) February 22, 2019

  20. 20
    Hoodie says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: These guys want to do what weapons manufacturers have been doing to the Saudis for decades. The Saudis have tons of cash and very little human infrastructure to effectively manage any of the stuff they buy, so they constantly get taken to the cleaners. The thing that is potentially disturbing is that the hysteria about Iranian aggression may simply be part of the grift, stoking Saudi fears that would induce them to go for these kinds of deals. The Saudis really can’t go toe to toe with the Iranians, Turks and other regional rivals, even with all their money. They would be inclined to view nukes as a field leveler and, thus, are perfect marks for this kind of scam. That, plus there already is a high level of endemic corruption in the royal family.

  21. 21

    @Hoodie: We’ll see. My next post will be more complex than that.

  22. 22
    Anonymous At Work says:

    @Quinerly: Let us please let John Cole, Steelers fan, post the good news…

  23. 23
    The Moar You Know says:

    These guys want to do what weapons manufacturers have been doing to the Saudis for decades. The Saudis have tons of cash and very little human infrastructure to effectively manage any of the stuff they buy, so they constantly get taken to the cleaners.

    @Hoodie: There’s some truth told right there. They’ve got a ton of our combat gear, and no soldiers to use it – because no one will join the army. They can’t even put down a two-bit rebellion in Yemen, which is a bit like one’s armed forces not being able to handle an assembly at a grade school. The only thing that can put them on par, regionally, are nukes.

    I don’t want Saudi Arabia to have access to anything atomic at all. Maybe X-ray machines at the most.

  24. 24
    Yarrow says:

    A simple theory can explain this. The Saudis want nuclear reactors to eventually build a nuclear weapons program

    Yep. Kushner is in big trouble.

    @Cheryl Rofer: Nikki Haley may be in trouble. Remember what she said about Jared Kushner? “I can’t say enough good things about Jared and Ivanka.” and “Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands.” Okaayyy….. She didn’t have to do that and he’s not a genius, hidden or otherwise.

  25. 25
    trollhattan says:

    Cordesman practically lived on cable news during Desert Storm, ‘splainin’ all the military stuff to we civilians. At least that’s where I know him from.

  26. 26
    catclub says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    The only thing that can put them on par, regionally, are nukes.
    I don’t want Saudi Arabia to have access to anything atomic at all. Maybe X-ray machines at the most.

    somebody wrote somewhere that the Saudis already have access to nuclear weapons ( and delivery) from Pakistan.
    If so, all this makes even less sense. Maybe it is not that simple for them to buy Pakistan’s nukes. Although they have bought much else in Pakistan.

  27. 27
    Haroldo says:


    It was Robert Kraft

    in the massage parlor.

    with the bimbo.

  28. 28
    Cacti says:


    It’s actually far more depraved than the charges sound. Apparently he liked being serviced by human-trafficked sex slaves working in the back of strip mall.

    Jupiter, FL police chief says the women “working” there averaged about 1,500 men per year, never got a day off, and had “minimal” hygiene.

    Bob Kraft is a sick man.

  29. 29
    Jay Noble says:

    @Another Scott: Ah, good old “Origination Fees”. They worked so well on student loans, why not? Bank makes loan of $2,000 skims $150 off the top. 6 months later sells loan and collects $2,000 from aggregator/feds. Meanwhile the poor student (like I was) is left having to come up with that $150 now missing from their aid package. Back in the 80’s that was a big deal.

  30. 30
    Bex says:

    @Hoodie: According to Huff Post (I know) two dozen men and at least four women have been charged in a human trafficking investigation at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, FL. Investigation started six months ago.

  31. 31
    trollhattan says:

    And, The Rope!

    I couldn’t be happier that it’s Kraft, who has managed to wriggle himself onto the Platform of Hate alongside Jerry Jones.

  32. 32
    trollhattan says:

    “Orchids of Asia”

    Ripe for interpretation, that name is.

  33. 33
    trollhattan says:

    Bug or feature? Remember, these are Republicans we’re dealing with.

  34. 34
    LivinginExile says:

    ahh that’s it Thank You

  35. 35
    Geoboy says:

    @Quinerly: “OT Bob Kraft busted for soliciting a prostitute in Florida. Apparently, there’s tape.” That’s one instant reply I’m going to skip, thank you very much.

  36. 36
    Gravenstone says:

    @germy: Just as I’m checking CNN to confirm Kraft is still top story – nope. He’s been relegated to second/third fish by indictments coming down for R. Kelly. Looks like it’s going to be one of these hectic news Fridays …

  37. 37
    germy says:

    @Gravenstone: Out of curiosity, I googled the name of the day spa.

    And I saw the google reviews! The majority of them extremely recent reviews: anonymous humorists who sign their names “Bob Kraft” and “Donald Trump” and describe having their stiffness relieved.

  38. 38
    Immanentize says:


    And, The Rope!

    That would have been Jussie S.

  39. 39
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Another Scott:

    Too much of our modern economy is made up of people making a quick buck while dumping the actual work and risk on others.

    I think your ‘suppositions’ are spot on.

    Flynn and his kid had no experience in any aspect of nuclear energy. They dummied up some credentials, used personal contacts to give them legitimacy, and tried to insert themselves into the food chain. After the election, Flynn Sr. was in a position to help get Russian sanctions removed to expedite a sale. That’s as close as they got.

    All of this appears to me to be chasing a fast buck. Illegally.

    What I’m curious about is Flynn’s plot to kidnap… er, uh excuse me, rendition the Muslim cleric that Erdogan wanted.

    And does anyone else here think there is a possibility that Erdogan blackmailed Trump into pulling out of Syria by threatening to expose Jared for helping MBS set up the hit on Khashoggi?

    Jeez, listen to me. I sound like a cheap spy thriller.

  40. 40
    Kent says:



    It’s actually far more depraved than the charges sound. Apparently he liked being serviced by human-trafficked sex slaves working in the back of strip mall.

    Jupiter, FL police chief says the women “working” there averaged about 1,500 men per year, never got a day off, and had “minimal” hygiene.

    Bob Kraft is a sick man.

    Jeez…If you are as rich as Robert Kraft you can get the world’s best hookers delivered to your hotel room. What are you doing in a high volume low end massage parlor? That is pathological.

  41. 41
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    Holy Shit! This isn’t a single bust! It’s a raid! Over 200 arrest warrants issued and a shitload of arrests already made. And apparently… Kraft ain’t the biggest name on the list.

    And what other big names do we know that live in FloriDUH?

    Besides a certain birthday girl.

  42. 42
    Immanentize says:

    @The Midnight Lurker: oh no, you’re not suggesting Adam is involved?!

    ETA But sriously, I wouldn’t be sad to see the new Governor or new Senator from Florida on the list. Also, the news says Kraft “was driven” to the place of iniquity. By whom, with whom, and from where I’d like to know.

  43. 43
    catclub says:

    @Kent: It may be that some rich people got that way by never paying more for something, if they could get it for less. This trait lives on even if they are now very very rich. I agree it is pathological.
    One has also heard of rich people stealing things from high class hotels, too.

  44. 44
    catclub says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:

    Kraft ain’t the biggest name on the list.

    I was thinking Gronkowski has more letters.

  45. 45
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @LivinginExile: He’s the most senior person at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

  46. 46
    catclub says:

    @The Midnight Lurker: The amazing thing to me about the documents was that Flynn was still running this
    in March 2017, after he had been shit-canned by Trump, and there were people at NatSecAdvisor’s office who were still pushing it for him.

  47. 47
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    Mueller just indicted R Kelly and the owner of the NE Patriots.


  48. 48
    Mnemosyne says:


    Every accusation is a confession.

  49. 49
    The Midnight Lurker says:


    Kraft “was driven” to the place of iniquity

    Literally or figuratively or both?

  50. 50
    Immanentize says:

    Hmmm. New report on Epstein’s plea in Florida. Arrest of Kraft in Florida. Hey Dersh, c’mon down!

  51. 51
    Immanentize says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:
    I’m sure his defense lawyer will claim it was just a momentary lapse as he was disconsolate after the death of his beloved wife. Who we hear a lot about up here near Boston.

  52. 52
    germy says:

    @Immanentize: He’s got an attractive young girlfriend (about forty years younger than him)

  53. 53
    Bill Arnold says:

    Cheryl, any comment on this? Is it the media front of a play (by warmongers) to spook/embarrass D.J. Trump on peace talks with the DPRK?
    Peace Treaty, and Peace Prize, for North Korea Appear to Tempt Trump
    More than a little irritated. Peace with the DPRK would be a big deal, assuming the US doesn’t give up too much (e.g. regional alliances). (Yes, depending on details it might, it probably would be Nobel Peace Prize worthy.)

  54. 54
    Haroldo says:


    Hey Dersh, c’mon down!

    ….the hot water’s fine.

  55. 55
    elm says:


    The sex slavery must be what he was after.

  56. 56
    Mnemosyne says:


    What are you doing in a high volume low end massage parlor?

    You’re getting off on the dirtiness and degradation —both theirs and yours.

  57. 57
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    And I just got through reading the transcript on Judge Amy Berman-Jackson’s gag (or more appropriately – shut-the-fuck-up-and-sit-down-right-now) order. And no she did not let him off. She set him up to bring the fucking whip if he opens his mouth again.

    So… I’m looking at my watch…

  58. 58
    Immanentize says:

    @germy: oh, I didn’t know, but now I do:

    Lander is nearly 40 years Kraft’s junior and 16 years younger than his oldest son. But friends say she brought the NFL owner companionship and happiness after the death of his wife, Myra, in 2011, which he said had left him so lonely, he wasn’t sleeping or looking after himself.

    Seems there is a baby, not Bob’s and family trust chicanery perhaps. Who says the Patriots are no fun in the off season?

  59. 59
    trollhattan says:

    O/T why do I immediately think of Cole having this happen to him? Probably a coyote, but still….

  60. 60

    I went for a walk and I’m at least two creepo perv arrests behind. The Age of Trump. The Gish Gallop of Evil.

  61. 61
    trollhattan says:

    Can some Cohen payoffs be mixed in there somewhere? Bob and Donny’s bagman!

  62. 62
    trollhattan says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:

    The Gish Gallop of Evil.

    As inside baseball as that construction may be, it’s still awesome.

  63. 63
    Mnemosyne says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:

    I suspect that Mueller’s team is waiting to be able to show their evidence that Stone Manaforted himself by committing new crimes while out on bail. They just want him to lead them to as many new conspirators as possible before they ask the judge to drop the hammer.

    IANAL but come on, of course that’s what they’re doing.

  64. 64
    rikyrah says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:

    Holy Shit! This isn’t a single bust! It’s a raid! Over 200 arrest warrants issued and a shitload of arrests already made. And apparently… Kraft ain’t the biggest name on the list.

    Who would be a bigger name?

  65. 65
    Mnemosyne says:


    Where in Florida does Rush Limbaugh live, again? 🤔
    /pure speculation

  66. 66

    a random note, has anybody been following the crazy-ass conspiracy theories about this Smollett guy? (I never heard of him before yesterday.) Anyway, it seems like people are saying he’s Kamala Harris’s nephew, and he has ties to the Obamas (naturally), and he was on the phone with Corey Booker right before he got beaten up, and it was somehow meant to help Harris get her anti-lynching law passed, and evidently that’s a bad thing—don’t ask me why—and George Soros is somehow involved in this pitiful mishmash—’cause how could he not be?—and it was all meant to somehow set off a race war, and…

    Shit. I’ve never seen anything like this. Has anybody been following this? I mean, Christ, what’s wrong with these people [sic]? Has anybody been following this?

  67. 67
    laura says:

    Can’t read this post without thinking of General Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket.”
    So many retired “patriots” sidling up to the government trough for personal enrichment. The grift is strong in these ex-mil. :(

    Also, too, the revelations of extreme p☆$$y fever by Epstein and co., Kraft, R. Kelly, and sooo many men of god and institutions of higher learning, radio psychology etc., make me want to vomit. Augian stables of ejac… ugh!

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mnemosyne: Same area as Kraft. And Mar a Lago. And Anne Coulter. And Epstein. There’s a pattern here…

  69. 69
    Kent says:


    Who would be a bigger name?

    Tom Brady?
    Any of the Trumps?
    Rick Scott?

    It would be irresponsible not to speculate.!

  70. 70
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Immanentize: Let the Wrong Arm Of The Law suss out what plane Derpowitz is on & meet him with agents & handcuffs. Boy howdy do I want that momser doing serious time. Can you get life without parole for jaywalking? Double parking? Tearing the tag off a new mattress?

  71. 71
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    VISIT FLORIDA! Come for Disney World! Stay for the sex slavery! Bring the kids!

  72. 72
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): These are the same loons that followed QAnon’s disclosure that babies putting their hands in their mouths is a government plot.

  73. 73
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Uncle Cosmo:

    Tearing the tag off a new mattress?

    Hey! Don’t even joke about that, dude! FBI lurkers. Shuuuuu.

  74. 74
    MattF says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): You’ve gone down a rabbit hole. Go up and get out.

  75. 75
    Robert Sneddon says:

    The Rosatom deal for non-nuclear countries like Vietnam who want nuclear reactors to provide on-demand electrical power is usually a complete turnkey operation — Rosatom part-funds and builds the reactors, provides operators and technicians and training for locals to get involved later, supplies fresh fuel and takes away spent fuel for reprocessing and waste disposal, a complete turnkey operation. Under that sort of a deal the Saudis would get electrical power at a fixed price and no actual access to nuclear materials, equipment or anything else. The UAE’s deal with KEPCO is a similar operation for the four reactors under construction there.

    There was a recent IAEA report on Saudi Arabia’s ability to host a nuclear power programme under the Milestones process. The summary as published was polite but gave no hint that Saudi Arabia was at all ready to even start thinking about building and operating power reactors on its territory given the lack of technically trained staff, legislative structures for licencing and oversight of operations etc. even for a Rosatom turnkey deal.

    Saudi’s nuclear power ambitions have been dialled way back because of the fall in the price of oil and gas — the idea was to generate cheap nuclear electricity from up to 16 reactors and export expensive oil and gas, right now they can afford to burn oil and gas to generate electricity as they have done for the past thirty years and more. The current request for tender the Saudis have placed before the world nuclear power plant builders is for 2.9GW of output which means, basically, they want a pair of KEPCO APR1400s identical to the ones the UAE are getting since pretty much all the other reactor designs out there produce about 1GW – 1.1GW, including Rosatom’s VVER-1200. EDF’s EPR might fit at 1.6GW output but its track record for completion of existing builds is poor for assorted reasons.

    The UAE APR1400 reactor designs have already been modified for use in the Gulf with enlarged condenser systems to allow for raised sea temperatures compared to the Pacific and elsewhere which makes them an easier sell for the Saudis if they do go ahead. It will still take them ten years or so to get the basics in place before the first load of basemat concrete for the first reactor is poured anywhere in the Kingdom and at least fifteen years from now for fuel loading and permission to start generating electricity. If they want nuclear weapons to threaten or attack Iran or wherever it would be simpler, faster and cheaper to just buy them from Pakistan or maybe Israel.

  76. 76
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    And apologies to Ms. Rofer. That was a smart, well-researched piece you posted, that we tossed over immediately for the most lurid of tabloid gossip.

    And I know you’re trying to keep us informed on the latest developments in a never-ending cacophony of proliferation events that could ultimately wipe-out life on this planet.

    But, come on… it’s sex!

  77. 77
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.):

    Harris. Check. Booker. Check. The Obamas. Double check.

    Yep. That’s Bingo!

  78. 78
    trollhattan says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:
    Sadly, no Hillary. {sigh}

  79. 79
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    @trollhattan: No, not on this card. But they got Soros in the FREE SPACE.

  80. 80
    J R in WV says:


    Diamond and gold markets is another place where you see weird stuff going on because the [russians…]

    The diamond market is in turmoil because the century-old monopoly once controlled by deBeers is over, broken by newly discovered diamond mines in Canada, Australia and Russia that refused to sign up with the deBeers monopoly to maintain that market control.

    The vaults with tons of gem-grade diamonds held by deBeers for decades are not valued solely at the discretion of deBeers, since there are other supplies from these newer mines.

    Gold’s value of course is partly defined by the gold-bug nuts fostered by the RWNJs talking about fiat money, etc, etc. But there too, supply is defined by mining production, and demand by the amount of money people who desire to own gold, whether as bullion/coin investments or as jewelry for both adornment and as investment against hard times.

    And as people in cultures [like Indian cultures] that highly value gold adornment become better off financially, their demand for more gold rises, while supply is relatively fixed by mining production.

    None of this has anything much to do with nuclear adventures on Gen. (ret.) Flynn’s part, of course, but I know a little bit about diamond markets and gold supplies, compared to my shallow knowledge of nuclear adventures.

  81. 81
    Another Scott says:

    @Robert Sneddon: Thanks. That makes the heavy pushing for the Saudis to get them even more curious, though, doesn’t it?

    We know Adam doesn’t think that Seth Abramson is reliable (IIRC), but maybe he’s onto something in his book??

    Dunno, but it’s all very weird…


  82. 82
    Mnemosyne says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:

    Now we know why conservatives complained about a high-speed train potentially being able to take people from Disneyland in California to the Bunny Ranch in Nevada. They didn’t want the competition. 😒

  83. 83
    catclub says:

    @The Midnight Lurker:

    Yep. That’s Bingo!

    Soros is the middle square.

  84. 84
    MattF says:

    @catclub: Accompanied by a Celtic symbol.

  85. 85
    catclub says:

    @J R in WV:

    but I know a little bit about diamond markets

    so how much are lab grown diamonds affecting the market? I knwo that the Diamond ads have started pushing for ‘natural’ diamonds as the real thing (which is bullshit), but all the fun colors with lab grown diamonds should get popular. Are they?

  86. 86
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Another Scott: The Saudis aren’t pushing THAT hard for nuclear power plants. The nuclear power industry is awash with Memorandums of Understanding and grip-and-grin photo opportunities, discussions and contracts for studies and high-level meetings, press releases and detailed technical reports, especially in the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) arena which is sexy at the moment but with no actual construction going on. When the rubber meets the road is when ground works start at a licenced and approved site, when metal is bent and concrete is poured and even then a project underway might be abandoned when things change or the government gets replaced or whatever. See, for example the APR1000 reactor builds at Summer in the US which shut down about a year ago when the financial environment changed under them as gas got cheaper.

    Britain’s plans to replace nearly all of its existing nuclear power stations had several contracts signed and shovel-ready but a number of of those “done deals” collapsed recently. We’ve only got one hole in the ground getting filled with concrete and bent metal, the first of two EPR builds at Hinkley while we’re on track to lose over 5GW of carbon-free electricity generating capacity in the next decade or so as the AGRs are taken out of service, possibly sooner than later — the two Hunterston AGRs are shut down at the moment with technical problems and may never start up again if they are in fact irreparable (cracks in the carbon moderator blocks).

  87. 87
    Matt says:

    Why nuclear reactors? There are a great many problems in selling & building them.

    Sure there are – but almost all of those aren’t apparent until well after the consultants have cashed their checks. This isn’t about *sucessfully* transferring anything, this is about grifting.

  88. 88
    Immanentize says:

    @Robert Sneddon: I hate to ask, but how will Brexit effect it?

  89. 89
    Immanentize says:

    PS. now being reported that Mueller’s report is NOT coming out next week

  90. 90
    Gravenstone says:

    @Immanentize: Magic 8-ball says: Not this week. Check back later!

  91. 91
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Immanentize: Don’t know what Brexit will do but it probably won’t have any real effect on the nuclear power industry in Britain. It will probably cause some disruption is the movement of EDF technicians and engineers back and forth across the Channel, they’ll need work permits and visas and all sorts of time-consuming expensive paperwork to be completed which will push the costs up a bit.

    Euratom is a different thing to the power reactor business, it deals more with stuff like licencing and importation and exportation of medical isotopes and the like. We’re leaving Euratom since it’s an EU operation — this was a surprise to the current Government when they found out, much like a lot of other dislocations in train due to the decision to invoke Article 50 a couple of years back. The result will be shortages of medical isotopes, new licencing and agreements between the EU and Britain and such. Fun times.

  92. 92
    J R in WV says:


    As a mineral collector, I’m not much interested in lab grown crystals. Plus “natural” real diamonds come in every color of the rainbow, and cost much more for brightly colored “fancy” stones than colorless diamonds. I have one tiny colorless rough diamond, plus Mrs J’s earrings, etc.

    A friend deals in uncut stones from all over the world mostly yellow, green, and colorless diamonds, as well as all sorts of other minerals. That’s where most of my info comes from.

  93. 93
    Ben Cisco says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (formerly Mumphrey, et al.): I’m pretty sure Nietzsche said something not looking into an abyss for too long…

  94. 94
    Yutsano says:

    @Mike in NC: I read somewhere after the Fukushima disaster that there is an iron dome that can only be forged in Japan. Cheryl can probably tell me the accuracy of that statement. This has caused at least a ten year backlog for any future nuclear projects that anyone would want to build.*

    *DISCLAIMER: I have no idea how accuratd that statement is. But if that’s true, then no one is getting any nuclear power or any of the other benefits thereof. But Cheryl would know if that’s true or not. I think, anyway.

  95. 95
    Another Scott says:

    @Yutsano: It might be this, maybe?

    This product is a forged steel component used in nuclear reactors. Unlike conventional products made by welding separate pieces of metal together, our product is made entirely from a single high-quality steel ingot, the largest in the world. Our forged steel products are used in fields where absolute safety must be assured.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were only a few facilities (or even only one facility) in the world that can make such things. But I don’t know, myself.


  96. 96
    Amir Khalid says:

    Sorry to mention such a trvial point, but how did some of these people come by the “Honorable” title? Is it related to some position they held?

  97. 97

    @Amir Khalid: Members of Congress or high positions, like Secretary of Defense, in the government.

  98. 98

    @Yutsano: @Another Scott: Yes, I’m not sure how many facilities can make the pressure vessels, but it’s in the single digits.

  99. 99
    km says:

    Cheryl – This odd story caught my eye the other day, did you see it? Qatari investors, not Saudi, but nuclear power (in the US), and Trump-adjacent: https://dailymemphian.com/article/1174/POWER-BROKER

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