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. Read more