For all its wealth, Saudi Arabia does not have the technical and scientific base to create a nuclear infrastructure. It has many expatriate-staffed universities, and tens of thousands of Saudi students have been sent to universities overseas. But because of an ideological attitude unsuited to the acquisition of modern scientific skills, there has been little success in producing a significant number of accomplished Saudi engineers and scientists.Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Bulletin. Here
Perforce, a Saudi Arabia in search of the bomb will likely turn to Pakistan for help. An outright transfer of nuclear weapons by Pakistan to Saudi Arabia is improbable. Surely this would lead to extreme reaction from the United States and Europe.
Instead, the kingdom's route to nuclear weapons is likely to be long, beginning with the acquisition of nuclear reactors for electricity generation. The spent fuel from reactors can be reprocessed for plutonium. Like Iran, Saudi Arabia will have to find creative ways for skirting various treaty obstacles. But it will doubtless take heart from the US decision to "forgive" India for its nuclear testing in 1998 and eventually reward it with a nuclear deal.
The kingdom's first step toward making nuclear weapons may soon be taken. In June 2011, it revealed plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than $300 billion. To create, run, and maintain the resulting nuclear infrastructure will require importing large numbers of technical workers. Some will no doubt be brought over from the West, Russia, and countries once part of the former Soviet Union. But Saudi Arabia will likely find engineering and scientific skills from Pakistan particularly desirable.