ABU DHABI // Building nuclear power plants is comparatively straightforward. Staffing them is the real chore. That was the message delivered yesterday by Ali al Zaabi, the head of the programme management office with the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec). The greatest hurdle facing the UAE's fledgling nuclear programme is recruiting and training workers to staff the multi-million dollar facilities, Mr al Zaabi said.
Around 500 employees will be needed to operate the first plant, which is scheduled to open in 2017. "Finding the right people to work in all the different areas of the [nuclear power plants], that will be the most challenging part," he said. "The other parts, like building the [power plants], we have already arranged." The programme is faced with the prospect of wooing engineering students from other lucrative and more established industries, such as the petrochemical field.
In addition to matching the high salaries offered by oil and gas firms, recruiters must deal with a shortage of local educational courses to train potential workers. Mr al Zaabi was speaking on the third day of the International Conference on Nuclear Energy Industry Human Resource Development at Yas Marina. His comments come a day after Arif al Hammadi, the interim president of the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, said the Arab world was lagging behind other regions in educational achievement.
Mr al Zaabi said the project would be aided by the deal signed with the South Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology to enable students to study in that country. "We are benefiting from the educational support made available to us," he said. "We have set ourselves an ambitious target and hope that 60 per cent of the workforce will be Emiratis." Recruiters hope to attract students with scholarships, financial incentives and the promise of assured careers.