Former British PM Johnson calls for stronger ties with UAE in AI and nuclear energy

There is potential for co-operation in small modular reactor technology, Johnson says

Former UK PM Boris Johnson praises UAE in summit speech

Former UK PM Boris Johnson praises UAE in summit speech
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The UAE and the UK need to deepen their co-operation in areas such as battery technology, artificial intelligence and nuclear energy, former British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson, who was speaking at the Green Hydrogen Summit in Abu Dhabi, said the two countries had “enormous” potential.

Developing certain sectors requires "patience and political leadership and relentless innovation and that innovation requires countries like the UAE and the UK to work ever more closely together in everything from battery technology to artificial intelligence", he added.

“Under my mayoralty of London, the connections with the UAE were so strong that London was sometimes known as the eighth emirate,” he said.

Mr Johnson, who left the prime minister’s office in 2022 amid multiple scandals, served as London’s mayor from 2008 to 2016.

On Tuesday, he said that the UAE was significantly ahead of the UK in adopting nuclear energy.

“This country, rightly, is leaving us miles behind [in nuclear energy]. Twenty per cent of your power already comes from nuclear,” Mr Johnson told attendees.

“[There’s] so much I think what we can do together on small modular reactors (SMRs) like the type made by Rolls-Royce.”

SMRs have one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors, but they require lower upfront costs and can be sited in locations not suitable for larger plants.

Currently, nuclear power contributes about 15 per cent of the UK's electricity supply, but several older reactors are scheduled for decommissioning within the coming decade.

The UAE’s Barakah nuclear plant, the largest single source of clean electricity in the Middle East, is expected to become fully operational this year, generating a fifth of the country’s electricity needs.

The UK and the UAE have been exploring ways to increase their renewable energy ties amid plans to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In February, Abu Dhabi clean energy company Masdar completed the acquisition of a 49 per cent stake in the three-gigawatt Dogger Bank South (DBS) project, one of the world’s largest planned offshore wind farms.

The acquisition was part of an £11 billion ($13.69 billion) joint investment in the UK’s renewable energy sector with German company RWE, which retains a 51 per cent stake.

“Together, we will not only promote peace, [but] we will also develop the technological solutions that will enable the world to tackle climate change and to cut the cost of energy in the long term to produce millions of good well-paying jobs,” Mr Johnson said.

Britain plans to add up to 10 gigawatts of hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – double a previous aim unveiled under the country’s national hydrogen strategy in August 2021.

Updated: April 17, 2024, 2:20 AM