An international committee that is to visit the proposed site of the UAE's first nuclear plant next week says the potential risks of the proposed reactor site require more study.
Abu Dhabi plans to build a US$20 billion (Dh73.46bn) power plant some 300km west of the capital and begin producing electricity from it in six years, making the UAE the first Arab nation with atomic energy.
The International Advisory Board (IAB), an independent body of nuclear experts recruited by the UAE to review the nuclear programme, praised the country's progress in safety and transparency.
But it said it still had questions about how international borders and technical concerns came together during the process of selecting the proposed site, near the isolated coastal town of Braka.
"In the view of the IAB, the site-specific risks have not yet been fully analysed," the assessment group wrote in a report released this week. Members of the IAB board, which is headed by Hans Blix, a former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, are to visit the proposed site, starting on Sunday, as part of a study of the overall civil nuclear programme.
The IAB, which plays the role of adviser rather than regulator, is one facet of the UAE's efforts to create a transparent civil nuclear programme. Another is the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, which is reviewing the proposal for building the first two of four reactors at Braka.
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), the government-owned company in charge of building and running the reactors, said it expected to get the green light from the regulator by July, which would allow it to begin construction in time to bring electricity to the grid by 2017.
Abu Dhabi aims for nuclear power to meet as much as a quarter of the emirate's electricity demand by the time all four reactors are online in 2020.
Nations including Italy and Germany have cancelled plans for nuclear plants or accelerated a phase-out of existing plants after the March disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, when damage from an earthquake-generated tsunami sent three reactors into partial meltdown and unleashed radiation.
But the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have remained committed to their plans to build nuclear plants. Enec has contracted a South Korean consortium to supply the reactors as well as to provide as much as 60 per cent of the staff to run them. The units are newer, third-generation reactors rather than the first-generation models in use at Fukushima.
Enec is to submit to the regulator any changes to its construction plan arising from lessons learnt after the March disaster in Japan.
The IAB has asked to hear about the safety aspects of the Korean reactors in light of Fukushima, as well as how the UAE would set limits on radiation exposure for nuclear workers.