x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Transparency key to UAE’s nuclear future

Experts gather in Abu Dhabi to discuss future development of nuclear energy at the 2013 International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation.

Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the 2013 International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation meeting Abu Dhabi. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National.
Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the 2013 International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation meeting Abu Dhabi. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National.

ABU DHABI // Confidence that the UAE nuclear industry is safe and for peaceful purposes is crucial to its success, Dr Anwar Gargash told world experts on Thursday.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said this meant that transparency, at home and with the international community, was critical.

“The UAE has adopted strong, transparent measures into the design of the programme, including commitments not to pursue sensitive technologies,” Dr Gargash said.

“We are of the view that credibility of any nuclear energy programme is linked directly to the level of domestic and international confidence in the safety, security and peaceful nature of the programme.

“Such credibility is the key for long-term success and sustainability.”

Dr Gargash was addressing the 2013 International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation meeting, held in the capital on Thursday, which focused on the next era of the industry and the importance of ensuring its safety.

The meeting was aimed at strengthening cooperation among established and new members of the nuclear community, addressing challenges and identifying opportunities for nuclear energy.

“We’re focusing on how we can pursue the development of nuclear energy in a responsible manner,” said Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s permanent ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “This means safety, security and non-proliferation.

“We’re tackling the issue of financing nuclear energy. We realise that the market has changed and issues such as having a robust regulatory framework and a clear policy framework are the kind of factors that could contribute to having a sound business model for the project.”

Infrastructure and financing for newcomers, such as Poland, and those considering nuclear energy, such as Ghana and Morocco, were at the top of the agenda.

Nuclear was an attractive option for Morocco, which has to import 95 per cent of the energy it needs, said Khalid El Mediouri, director general of the country’s Centre for Nuclear Energy Sciences and Technology.

Dr Gargash said embarking on a new nuclear programme was a major undertaking that needed significant resources and planning, and long-term commitment.

Edward McGinnis, deputy assistant secretary for international nuclear policy and cooperation at the US department of energy said financing was a huge challenge, as establishing a nuclear industry “requires a great deal of capital upfront”.

“Long-term, there’s great benefit to long, stable electricity generation at a stable price through nuclear but it’s the capital investment that is particularly challenging,” he said.

Others spoke of the importance of nuclear power in building a low-carbon future, and important lessons from the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima reactor in Japan.

“We’ve seen more and more evidence that global climate change is occurring and carbon emissions are a cause of rising temperatures,” said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the US department of energy.

“We’ve been through the experience of Fukushima where the tragic tsunami presented the world with a tremendous challenge that we had to learn from.

“It’s clear that we’ve learnt lessons and yet, globally, there remains worldwide understanding that nuclear power remains an important part of building a low-carbon future.”

Mr Poneman said the power plant incident in Japan underscored the need for a shared community of best practices for safety.

Hao Weiping, director general for nuclear energy development at China’s national energy authority, agreed on the need for collaboration, and said more countries were showing confidence in atomic power.

“It’s important to develop nuclear power in the spirit of solidarity and collaboration,” Mr Hao said. “Ensuring safety is always at the forefront for Chinese nuclear power and it’s very important for the future development of technologies and the safe expansion of nuclear power.”

He said 30 reactors were being built in China, adding to the 50 already operating.

Dr Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, said his country had put much research into safety and security.

“We are in the final stages of choosing a preferred bid for nuclear technology,” Dr Toukan said.

Dr Gargash said the political situation in the region made transparency even more important.

“Looking at recent political developments in our region, it becomes instantly apparent that nuclear power expansion must include transparent and verifiable procedures,” he said.

“It is the lack of responsible safeguards and transparency that makes the expansion of nuclear energy in the Gulf and the Middle East a problematic proposition.”

cmalek@thenational.ae