UAE nuclear power decision imminent

The UAE's nuclear regulator is expected to make a decision within days on whether to grant a licence to build the country's first reactors.

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The nuclear regulator is expected to make a decision within days on whether to grant a licence to build the country's first reactors.
If the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) gives the green light, the UAE will become the first nation to embark on a new civilian nuclear programme in nearly three decades.
The last nuclear newcomer nation to begin construction on an atomic plant was China in 1985, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations watchdog.
"We're expecting FANR to make a final decision on this later in the summer," said Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE permanent representative to the IAEA and a member of the FANR board of management. "It is the most important milestone in the construction process."
Sources familiar with the process said they expected the decision before the start of Ramadan.
The outcome of the licence review, which began in December 2010, will help to set the tone of the relationship between the operator and the regulator, which was created to be an independent watchdog for the industry.
Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), the lead contractor for the US$20 billion (Dh73.46bn) nuclear plant, had originally said it expected a licence to be granted by the end of June and first concrete for the reactor to be poured on July 1.
"FANR's schedule is based on its own schedule," said Mr Al Kaabi. "The proposal by Enec [Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation] is 2012. Fanr is working very closely with Enec to make sure all the requirements are qualified to meet that timeline. But at the end of the day, such decisions are FANR's decision."
The application by Enec to build the first two of four reactors runs to 9,000 pages. The first unit at Baraka, a remote site 300 kilometres west of the capital, is scheduled to come online in five years.
"Enec is on track to deliver the first plant to the UAE by 2017," wrote Ahmed Al Mazrouei, the deputy chief nuclear officer of Enec, in a statement. "Our timelines are always subject to a rigorous regulatory review process, and we factor this into our programme management."
More than 60 people from the regulator and international consultants have worked on the review. During the process, the regulator has sent Enec more than 1,600 questions and received answers to all of them, according to Fatema Al Ansari, the corporate communications manager for FANR.
The review, like the rest of the nuclear industry, has been shaped by the triple meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in March last year.
Germany, Italy and Switzerland have all abandoned plans to build new plants or accelerated shutdowns of existing ones. The UAE - like emerging economies in China, India and much of Eastern Europe - remains committed to atomic energy after Fukushima.
"The accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant in March 2011 had repercussions for the global nuclear energy industry," wrote Mr Al Mazrouei.
At the regulator's request, Enec submitted lessons learnt from the accident, including how the proposed design would respond to natural disasters and accidents could be managed.
Enec submitted the findings and proposed design changes in December.
About 5,000 people are already at Baraka working in areas from marine dredging to roads to prepare for construction.
If construction goes smoothly and enough demand is forecast, additional reactors could be accommodated at Baraka or another location in Abu Dhabi, said Mr Al Kaabi.
"Once you have the infrastructure in place, it only makes sense to expand on that infrastructure," he said. "If you want a healthy sector, you have to have a strong industry that generates enough profit."
By building additional reactors right after the first four, Abu Dhabi could take advantage of the workforce already on site as well as export electricity to other nations, he added.
Kepco has said it hopes to begin talks to sell four more reactors to Abu Dhabi next year.
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