If there’s one country where nuclear power would seem superfluous, it’s oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Yet a highlight of President Bush’s recent trip there was the signing of an agreement to cooperate on developing civilian nuclear energy. Saudi Arabia is only one of many nations in the Middle East suddenly eager for nuclear power. There’s no prohibition against such deals and we’re not suggesting there should be — as long as governments abide by international rules for inspections and transparency. Nuclear energy is one way to address the problem of climate change, and developing countries must have the same access to the technology as the developed world.

But there are alarming signs that this sudden enthusiasm is driven less by concerns about the climate, or declining oil supplies, than by Iran’s growing nuclear proficiency. Tehran is determined to produce its own nuclear fuel — a process that could also churn out fuel for a nuclear bomb. We are relieved that Riyadh has promised to buy fuel for its future reactors on the international market. But that is not enough. Before signing more deals, Washington and the other nuclear sellers must find ways to lessen the chances that expanding nuclear energy today will result in more weapons tomorrow. An international fuel bank would be a good first step.