UAE’s nuclear programme ‘a model’ for the world

With less than a year until its nuclear power plant is due to come into operation, the UAE is strengthening its links with international nuclear organisations at meetings in Vienna.

ABU DHABI // The UAE’s nuclear programme is a model for other states to follow, officials have said.

With less than a year until the nuclear power plant at Barakah is due to come into operation, the UAE has been strengthening its links with international nuclear organisations at meetings in Vienna this week.

Hosted at the International Atomic Energy Agency on its 60th anniversary, the conference was attended by more than 160 member states including the UAE.

The annual meeting makes decisions on programmes, budget and policies. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the UAE’s membership.

Hamad Alkaabi, UAE ambassador to the agency and leader of the country’s delegation, said: “The IAEA-UAE cooperation is an important one because the UAE today has an advanced nuclear energy programme.”

He said the country’s programme was “well recognised internationally” and had been developed according to IAEA guidance and best international practices.

“So in a way, the UAE programme is a model showcase for IAEA guidance and recommendations to other member states who are interested in developing nuclear energy programmes,” Mr Alkaabi said.

“It is quite refreshing for the global nuclear industry to see a programme that can be started in programmatic and successful steps.

“Making such big progress in a relatively short time and moving now to the operational stage makes this year and the coming years historical milestones for the UAE and the global nuclear industry.”

Other issues to be discussed at the conference include nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation.

“Big issues like Iran and North Korea are always on the table,” said Christer Viktorsson, director general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.

The agency plans to visit the UAE in November to review its nuclear security framework, and next year to assess safety practices at the power plant. Another three trips are planned in the next couple of years.

“It gives a standard of excellence that is aspirational for many new countries interested in building nuclear power plants,” said Lady Judge, former head of the UK Atomic Energy Agency and member of the international advisory board for the development of nuclear energy in the UAE.

“It can give an authoritative opinion about the standards that are existing in countries with nuclear. It gives advice, education and aspiration.”

She said the industry needed to educate the public about the benefits of nuclear energy.

“It needs to start at the school level,” Lady Judge said. “It needs to talk to parents, children and teachers about how nuclear can enhance their lives and counteract the bad publicity the industry gets when there is an accident.

“Part of the problem for nuclear is that the benefits are not obvious for people who don’t understand it.”

The UAE’s four nuclear reactors in Barakah in the Western Region are more than 70 per cent complete, with Unit 1 more than 90 per cent complete. When fully operational, the plant will produce 25 per cent of the UAE’s energy needs.

cmalek@thenational.ae

Published: September 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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