ABU DHABI // The first wave of Emirati nationals who will work in the country's civilian nuclear energy programme when the reactors come on line in the next decade have been identified. Thirty-eight UAE nationals have been selected for a scholarship programme and have begun engineering courses in the Emirates and overseas as part of the scheme, which comes as the country prepares to select an operator for its own fleet of nuclear reactors.
Fahad al Qahtani, a spokesman for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), said UAE nationals would play "a major part in developing and leading" the country's nuclear energy industry. "The participation of talented UAE nationals is critical to the long-term success of the UAE nuclear energy programme," he said. The scholarship programme is run by Enec, Khalifa University for Science, Technology and Research (Kustar) and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.
French, Japanese and South Korean consortia are vying for the contract to build the first pair of reactors, in Abu Dhabi. The initial contract is likely to lead to an agreement to build a number of reactors of the same design, with the total value of the project estimated at US$39 billion (Dh143.24bn). The reactors are expected to supply half the country's energy needs by 2020. In a white paper last year, the UAE indicated it was committed to training the country's own personnel for the nuclear energy programme, saying the Emirates would develop "a skilled cadre of engineers".
"The UAE would intend to ensure that substantial progress had been made in the development of human-resource capacity in advance of facility construction and operation," the white paper continued. Five students from among the scholarship winners are studying for master's degrees in nuclear engineering in France. A further 33 are taking bachelor's degrees in nuclear, electrical or mechanical engineering in the UAE, the United States or the UK.
Once they complete their courses, students are expected to work for one of the three institutions running the programme for at least as long as their schooling lasted. The first round of scholarships attracted more than 500 applicants. Applications are now being taken for the second round of the annual scholarship programme. Officials say they hope by the middle of December to have received a similar number of applications for the second year, which will see students begin courses in autumn 2010.
The scholarships cover tuition fees and living costs; the monetary value of the scholarship depends on the location of the school. "It is one of the most competitive packages [for such scholarships]," said Mr al Qahtani. Students on scholarships will be offered work placements to prepare them for jobs when they graduate. Admission requirements include high levels of academic achievement and English proficiency. To be eligible for a bachelor's degree scholarship, students must have scored at least 85 per cent or its equivalent on their secondary school certificate in science. For the Master's degree scholarship, a grade-point average of 3.0 out of 4.0 during a previous bachelor's degree course in engineering or physics is needed.
Applicants are interviewed by training specialists from Enec and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, and professors from Kustar.
An information session will be scheduled in the coming weeks in which students and parents will be able to ask questions about the programme. More information is available at www.ku.ac.ae/enecscholarship/