x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dh11b uranium deals bring electricity from atomic power a step closer

Six companies have been chosen to supply the UAE with enriched uranium, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation has announced.

The UAE recently signed a nuclear supply agreement with Australia.
The UAE recently signed a nuclear supply agreement with Australia.

ABU DHABI // Electricity from atomic power came a step closer yesterday when the UAE signed contracts worth more than Dh11 billion with six international companies to supply fuel for the nuclear plant under construction at Braka in the Western Region.

The deals will provide enough fuel to supply the plant for its first 15 years of operation, expected to begin in 2017.

The UAE's nuclear energy company, Enec, signed the contracts with companies from the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Russia and France.

Between them, the six companies will supply natural uranium concentrates; convert those into the material ready for enrichment; and enrich that material to a fuel-ready level.

"The completion of the fuel-supply strategy is a key achievement to Enec's programme and a clear example of how the UAE continues to set the gold standard for implementing a peaceful nuclear energy programme," said Enec's chief executive Mohamed Al Hammadi.

"These contracts will provide Enec with long-term security of supply, high-quality fuel and favourable pricing and commercial terms."

Enec invited tenders for the contracts in July last year, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealt with international nuclear fuel supply agreements.

These bilateral agreements provide the legal foundation for nuclear supply sales between nations. Most countries require them to be in place before commercial companies are allowed to bid for contracts, as a way of ensuring uranium is sold only to responsible buyers.

The UAE has signed agreements with the US, the UK, Japan, France, South Korea and, most recently, Australia.

Russia is in talks with the UAE over their agreement, according to Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

The companies who signed contracts yesterday are ConverDyn (US); Uranium One (Canada); Urenco (UK); Rio Tinto (UK-Australia); Tenex (Russia); and Areva (France).

Yaroslav Klyukhin, at the Russian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, welcomed the news that a Russian company, Tenex, had won a contract.

"Russia salutes any agreement that has been reached by our countries," he said. "This partnership will boost our relationship."

The US was equally welcoming. "I am pleased to learn a portion of Enec's contract went to a US firm," said the US Ambassador, Michael Corbin. "Agreements such as this highlight the broad diversity of US support for critical infrastructure development projects in the UAE."

His British counterpart, Dominic Jermey, said: "Today's announcement that two leading UK companies have been selected to participate in the UAE's strategy ... is testimony to both the UK's strength in the nuclear sector and the closeness of the bilateral relationship between the UK and UAE."

The UAE began negotiations for a nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada during a visit in March by the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.

"This highlights the dynamic and multifaceted trade, investment and innovation relationship that Canada and the UAE share and are together growing," said Syed Sameer Ahmed, the Canadian Embassy's counsellor and trade commissioner.

Mr Al Kaabi said fuel-leasing arrangements, in which spent fuel is returned to the supplier to avoid storing radioactive waste inside the country, was a key component of the UAE's nuclear policy. Some countries had indicated interest, but were unable to store waste.

Enec is building four 1,400MW nuclear-energy units at Braka. In July it received regulatory approval to begin work on the first two.

Pending further regulatory approvals, the first unit is due to begin delivering electricity in 2017, with the rest by 2018, 2019 and 2020.

amustafa@thenational.ae