DOHA, QATAR // Minor changes will be made to the UAE's nuclear power programme following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant that followed the March 2011 earthquake.
Speaking at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation in the Gulf Conference in Qatar, Ambassador Hamad Ali Al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a post-Fukushima disaster report was commissioned by the UAE Government.
"We have taken steps in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster," he said. "The regulator issued an official request to the operator in the UAE to evaluate the accident and provide recommendations to enhance nuclear safety and the report suggested no major structural changes but only made extra safety recommendations."
The March 11 Tohoku earthquake resulted in a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and the release of radioactive material at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.
Hans Blix, head of the advisory board for the UAE nuclear programme, told The National the improved safety measures involve precautions against natural disasters, securing an emergency power supply and inter-governmental communication.
"The UAE has learnt a serious lesson from the Fukushima disaster and have reported it to the advisory board," said Mr Blix.
"The precautions that are to be taken are against the remote possibility of a tsunami in the gulf, earthquakes and sea levels in the gulf," he said.
"Furthermore, we gave recommendations on the location of the emergency power generators and outlined communications strategies."
Mark Hibbs, senior associate at the Carnegie International Endowment for Peace's Nuclear Policy Programme, said the UAE had taken "clear leadership in the GCC" when it comes to nuclear power.
"The UAE has taken the leadership role in the development of a peaceful nuclear energy programmes in the GCC," he said.
The strategic location of the UAE and its role as a trade hub lead to the nomination of the UAE as the first Arab member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), he said.
The NSG is a multinational body that works to reduce nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and transfer of materials that may be used in the development of nuclear weapons.
"The GCC and IAEA have been in discussions for over a decade now," he said. Before the 2008 financial crisis, Oman, Qatar and Yemen were the countries most expected to implement nuclear energy programmes.
"The UAE are the ones who have advanced with their programme. And Saudi Arabia has also committed.
"The UAE project is everything Iran is not," said Mr Hibbs.
Ambassador Al Kaabi yesterday addressed rumours that pressure from the United States was behind the UAE's decision not to pursue nuclear enrichment activities.
"I would like to dispel any rumours that are going around regarding US pressure on the UAE's programme," he said.
"In 2008 the UAE had its own policy set concerning enrichment - long before signing the agreement with the United States," he said. "Forgoing this has concluded that the UAE's programme is peaceful by design."
"It is also commercial; enrichment makes no sense for the UAE," he added.
The UAE expects to have its first reactor operational by 2017, Mr Al Kaabi said.