DUBAI // Nuclear power is part of a diverse range of solutions to the nation's growing energy needs, Dubai residents were told last night.
"We need 9 per cent more electricity each year, which is more than twice the world average," said Mohammed Al Hammadi, chief executive of Enec, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation.
"With such a rate of consumption the country is diversifying its resources. We have recently seen the launch of the Shams project where solar energy is being utilised, trash burning technology to create electricity is also being reviewed, nuclear energy is a part of a bigger plan."
"It will help to meet this need with safe, clean and reliable power for our nation's homes and businesses."
Mr Al Hammadi was one of a panel of safety, licensing, training and nuclear experts answering questions about the UAE's first nuclear power plant under construction at Barakah in the Western Region.
Residents asked about employment opportunities for Emirati nationals, the safety and security of the project, spent-fuel disposal and crisis management.
The audience questioned why the UAE was going forward with a nuclear program while an advanced nation such as Germany is withdrawing from it.
"Three countries have retracted from nuclear use, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium," Al Hammadi said. "However, this is not going to happen overnight, they will stop use by 2020 when their reactors are decommissioned. The UAE consumption rate requires it to diversify and nuclear safety standards are extremely high."
When questioned on crisis management Mr Al Hammadi told the audience a programme was being developed that would be ready by 2015.
"We aim to have our full programme in place a year before the first fuel rod is installed," he said.
A safety analysis engineer, Ali Mubarak Al Mansoori, explained the effects of nuclear radiation from the plant and around it.
Mr Al Mansoori said on average human ability to absorb radiation, which exists naturally around us in all earth elements, is 280 milli-rems.
"Studies have shown that workers in a nuclear plant would be exposed to an average of 60 milli-rems a yearl while airline pilots and cabin crew are exposed to 300 a year due to the conditions they work in," Mr Al Mansoori said.
"When we researched the surrounding areas we have found that the exposure is only one tenth of a milli-rem which is negligible," he said.
When questioned about spent fuel the panel explained the storage process, which lasts up to 18 years.
The panel discussed the environmental effects and told the audience that the development of the plants was such that there would be no water contamination.
"The water usage is in a three-stage process. The stage that involves cooling the reactor where the water is in the reactor shell is the only stage where it becomes radiated but when the cooling water is deposited in to the sea it is no radiation is present," they were told.
"UAE residents are very interested in this programme and the Enec forums provide an excellent platform for open and in-depth discussion about topics and issues that are important to them," said Mr Al Hammadi.
Enec's head of training and career development, Hussa Al Hosani, answered questions about career and education opportunities,
"There is a wide range of career opportunities in the nuclear energy sector that are open to both science students looking to kick-start their careers and to experienced professionals seeking a new challenge," she told the audience.
"Enec expects to employ more than 2,000 employees by 2020, with a target of 60 per cent Emiratisation."
Fahad Al Qahtani, Enec's director of external communications, said the discussions and awareness and perceptions of the audience were similar to those in other Emirates focusing on safety, employment and spent fuel.
"The awareness level is very high and we have found that the public refers to three sources for knowledge about the programme - television, the internet and newspapers," he said.
A study into the perception and attitudes of nuclear energy among the UAE public released this week shows growing public support for nuclear energy in the UAE, with 82 percent of respondents supporting the country's peaceful nuclear energy programme, up from 66 per cent just a year ago.
The 2013 Dubai Public Forum was hosted by Enec and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority at the Raffles Hotel in Dubai to increase public awareness among residents and citizens. The forums have also taken place in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah and Ruwais.