UAE’s nuclear energy programme a safe, low-carbon and affordable alternative

For the UAE, nuclear energy provides an immediate solution for sustainable, commercially viable and safe production of electricity using proven technology.

Scientists worldwide are calling for the rapid deployment of low-carbon technologies to balance energy policies. Andy Wong / AP Photo
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As the global population races to 9 billion by 2050, there is growing awareness of the need for more energy, more sustainable means to generate it and greater energy security.

There is consensus that all available forms of energy will be needed to meet future demand and that each country must assess the most viable means to deliver safe, reliable and commercially feasible electricity to power their economic and social growth.

However, many nations remain undecided about their long-term energy policies and portfolios, and are now reaching critical points in their energy histories. What we achieve (or fail to achieve) in the coming decades will affect how the global economy functions and how well societies thrive.

At the World Energy Congress in South Korea last month, where 6,000 delegates from 112 countries met to discuss global energy issues, the World Energy Council urged policymakers and industry leaders to “get real” about their energy policy decisions.

The council urged stakeholders to take urgent and incisive action to develop and transform the global energy system; stressing that CO2 (carbon dioxide) targets for 2050 will be missed unless significant changes and policy frameworks are adopted.

Research suggests that substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will take the better part of a century. Scientists worldwide are calling for the rapid deployment of low-carbon technologies to balance energy policies, increase energy security and achieve sustainability targets. Inaction and unsustainable practices will no longer pass for energy policy.

We can reduce emissions and increase energy security while bringing the benefits of affordable, clean, reliable energy to the planet’s growing population. This goal is achievable now with the adoption of existing, large-scale, emissions-free energy. In the case of the UAE and other responsible nations, nuclear energy plays a central role in this effort.

Energy conservation, improvements in renewable technologies and the potential for cleaner burning fossil fuels are all important to cutting emissions and building a more sustainable energy future. Energy policymakers must lead the way in the implementation of robust policies that promote greater efficiency in energy generation, transmission and consumption without significant increases in cost per kilowatt.

Improvements in renewable technologies and cleaner burning fossil fuels are gathering momentum. However, these new technologies and improvements still require decades to win regulatory approvals, improve commercial performance and achieve efficient large-scale operations.

The World Energy Council projects that the world will still rely on fossil fuels for more than 60 per cent of our energy by 2035. Investing in wind, solar and emerging renewable technologies makes sense if those efforts are coupled with large-scale efforts to begin reducing emissions with proven and safe technology. Including nuclear energy in a country’s energy portfolio to complement fossil fuels and renewables meets this requirement.

For those who believe that the accident at Fukushima in Japan relegated nuclear energy to an ancillary role in the world's energy future, the facts demonstrate otherwise. Investment in nuclear energy is growing. The International Atomic Energy Agency projects that even in a low-growth scenario, world nuclear energy capacity will grow 25 per cent by 2030. Currently, more than 60 reactors are under construction in 13 nations.

To implement a responsible, transparent and peaceful nuclear energy programme, the UAE adopted international best practice and long-term energy policy planning through its Policy on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy, published in April 2008. The UAE adheres to a series of fundamental commitments: operational transparency; the highest standards of non-proliferation, safety and security; collaboration with international institutions and responsible nations and sustainability.

To demonstrate adherence to these commitments, the UAE published its Federal Nuclear Law in October 2009, prohibiting proliferation and reprocessing within the country. With this move, the UAE demonstrated how other responsible nations can also develop nuclear energy programmes in adherence to international standards of safety, security and operational transparency.

Nuclear energy can help countries around the world reach their sustainability targets in a safe and commercially viable manner. According to the 2011 World Energy Council Energy Sustainability Index, the top five most energy-sustainable countries all operate nuclear energy programmes – their nuclear plants supplied an average of 38.1 per cent of their electricity production. More importantly, countries with nuclear energy programmes achieve better standards of energy security and social equity.

The nuclear industry has the readily-available, proven technology to become a crucial contributor of abundant and low-carbon electricity, and it continues to advance in both technology and cost savings. Today, Generation III+ designs are trending towards a set of pre-approved, standard designs that are more commercially viable than their predecessors and provide far more robust safety features.

The world’s most energy-sustainable countries use nuclear energy as an essential part of their energy mix. National energy policies that offer clear and simple approaches lend credibility and certainty that enables investors and operators to make long-term plans. Clean, safe and affordable energy solutions are achievable.

Nuclear energy provides an immediate solution for sustainable, commercially viable and safe production of electricity using proven technology with more than 15,000 cumulative years of operational experience. It will continue to be an option on the table of energy policymakers who want to improve energy security, social equity and sustainability results for responsible nations across the world.

Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, the chief executive of Emirates Nuclear Energy, was appointed the chairman of the Global Agenda Council on energy security. The council, which emerged from the World Economic Forum, works with officials and international experts to provide advice and recommendations on future energy security