x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

UAE may sign more bilateral nuclear pacts

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation expects to follow up the award of $3 billion worth of fuel supply contracts earlier this month with more bilateral deals as the UAE's nuclear programme gathers pace.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) expects to follow up the award of US$3 billion worth of fuel supply contracts earlier this month with more bilateral pacts as the UAE's nuclear programme gathers pace.

The Dh11.01 billion deal will lead to the purchase of about 12,000 tonnes of concentrated uranium - also known as yellowcake - enough to generate 450 million megawatt hours of nuclear energy, according to Fahad Al Qahtani, an Enec spokesman.

"The uranium will be sourced by the contracted companies from uranium mines all over the world," he said.

In 2009, Korea Electric Power Corporation won a $20bn contract to build four nuclear reactors in Barakah in Al Gharbia. The 1,400MW reactors will be completed between 2017 and 2020 - making the UAE the first Arab state to generate nuclear power. The deals secure the fuel supply for the first 15 years of operation, according to Enec.

For the fuel to reach Barakah, the UAE has to continue signing bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with countries that will be part of its supply chain. Enec, which will own the finished reactors, has awarded uranium supply contracts to Rio Tinto, based in the United Kingdom, and Canada's Uranium One, while tasking Russia's Tenex, the American company ConverDyn, France's Areva and the UK's Urenco with converting the raw material into fuel.

The government has already signed such agreements with the US, France, the UK, Australia and South Korea. There are also talks with other countries, including Russia and Canada.

These negotiations could be concluded by the end of the year, said Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's nuclear watchdog. More bilateral agreements may have to be signed.

"We might sign further ones, depending on whether the contracts will lead to additional mines in certain countries," said Mr Al Kaabi.

"If uranium is transmitted to a third country from a second country, it requires a further arrangement."

Other issues could arise if the companies chosen by Enec decide to subcontract some of their work, he said.

The fuel contracts contain no provision for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and the UAE is currently evaluating its options, said Mr Al Kaabi. These include a fuel lease programme - which would require the providers to take back the used fuel and recycle it - and storage in geological repositories in the Emirates.

fneuhof@thenational.ae