x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Disaster Management City to prepare UAE for emergencies

Industry Insights Forum: Nuclear sabotage is just one of the possible scenarios behind the creation of Disaster Management City in Abu Dhabi.

A model of Tawazun's Disaster Management City. Sammy Dallal / The National
A model of Tawazun's Disaster Management City. Sammy Dallal / The National

Nuclear sabotage is just one of the possible scenarios behind the creation of Disaster Management City (DMC) in Abu Dhabi.

The facility being built on a 41.6-hectare plot in Mussaffah by Tawazun, a defence contractor, is one example of the preparations the UAE is making to protect its infrastructure.

DMC is made up of 12 zones including maritime, urban, industrial, nuclear and hazardous materials.

"We have eight wings and 12 zones that deal with all kinds of disasters and crisis situations," said Khalifa Al Hemairi, the DMC project director.

"The Disaster Management City has been set up to provide basic, advanced, vocational, technical and professional crisis training to all agencies in the UAE," he said.

Housing a security training centre, which is being upgraded this year, the city is expected to be fully operational in five years, coinciding with the expected commissioning in Abu Dhabi of the country's first nuclear reactor.

The nuclear, biological and chemical defence zone will feature a mock nuclear plant for disaster training.

"We are still awaiting the specifications and requirements from the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation to start implementing the plans," Mr Al Hemairi said. The development of the facility reflects the UAE's unique geopolitical situation, in which the issue of nuclear security is at the top of the agenda.

"Countries developing nuclear power are primarily interested in setting up their infrastructure for commercial uses and not security," said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "However, the UAE is located in a unique region which is marred by terrorism and conflict," Mr Hibbs said.

The UAE nuclear programme is designed to set a "gold standard" for peaceful civilian atomic power development, incorporating a commitment to forgo enrichment of uranium and to pursue close cooperation with established nuclear powers in the design and operation of the plants. The absence of enrichment from the UAE programme reduces the risks associated with the programme.

"The UAE won't have plutonium or enriched materials but will have spent fuel and radioactive materials that need to be protected from external malicious attacks or sabotage," said Mr Hibbs.

As part of its commitment to transparency, the UAE has created an independent Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.The authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Critical National Infrastructure Authority, which will provide physical security for the nuclear site in coordination with the Armed Forces and security agencies.

amustafa@thenational.ae