x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE signs nuclear pact with UK

The UAE advanced its nuclear power programme yesterday by signing a co-operation agreement with Britain.

The UAE Government signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the UK yesterday, furthering its strategy of cementing its own programme's legitimacy with the help of established nuclear powers.

Already this year, the Government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Japan and nuclear co-operation pacts with the US, South Korea and France. It is negotiating with other countries on an exchange of nuclear expertise and resources, said Hamad al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his British counterpart, William Hague, signed the accord at Emirates Palace yesterday during Queen Elizabeth II's visit.

Mr al Kaabi said the agreement, a more formal version of an MOU from 2008, allowed the two countries to share more formally a base of government and industry knowledge, also opening up the UAE to British components, subcontractors and technical experts.

"This is consistent with the UAE approach," said Mr al Kaabi. "It creates a framework between the two governments."

Last month the UAE was voted on to the board of the IAEA, the first Arab country to gain a seat on the leadership of the global nuclear watchdog.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) plans to build its first four nuclear reactors at Braka, 300km west of the capital.

"ENEC, as a part of the UAE nuclear programme, will benefit just as everyone else," said Fahad al Qahtani, an ENEC spokesman.

Those plans depend on the approval of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), an independent regulator for the nuclear industry. William Travers, FANR's director general, said the agreement could allow UAE nuclear regulators to take advantage of British expertise.

"We believe the kind of experience the UK has in safety regulation is significant, and our programme could certainly benefit," said Mr Travers. "We would look forward to establishing a regulator-to-regulator arrangement that would similarly position us to benefit from an exchange of technical information and maybe even some training opportunities."