A view of the reactor at the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, 746 miles south of Tehran, February 25, 2009.
Caren Firouz / Reuters

There’s a gold rush in the Middle East, but it isn’t gold that prospectors are seeking. It’s reactor sales; these have been talked about for decades, but they’re now picking up steam. So far, Russia has taken the lead. Having built the region’s only operational nuclear power plant—Iran’s Bushehr reactor—it will begin construction in Turkey later this year or next on four reactors, with energy set to begin flowing in the early 2020s. Russia has also stuck agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Iran, and Jordan, and it is seeking to enter the Saudi market.

Other countries are now trying to make up for lost time. South Korea has already contracted to build four plants in the United Arab Emirates, with the first expected to come online in 2017. And Argentina, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom are among

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  • BENNETT RAMBERG served as a policy analyst in the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is the author of, among other books, Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy.
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