x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Nuclear energy’s benefits becoming more obvious, UAE says

As global concerns over climate change increase, nuclear power is increasingly being considered one of the best sources of alternative energy.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation celebrated the UAE’s 42nd National Day at its Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 site in the Western region of Abu Dhabi with the UAE national flag draped over the power plant.  Courtesy Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation celebrated the UAE’s 42nd National Day at its Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 site in the Western region of Abu Dhabi with the UAE national flag draped over the power plant. Courtesy Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation

ABU DHABI // Nuclear energy will account for carbon dioxide savings of 3.2 gigatonnes a year by 2050, a report says.

The report, by the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the drop in damaging greenhouse gas emissions would come despite increased production to cater for greater global demand.

“Nuclear energy is a source of energy that is available today and it has almost negligible carbon dioxide emissions compared to other hydrocarbon sources,” said Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s permanent ambassador to the IAEA.

“To address both global energy demand increase and climate-related concerns, energy portfolios should be diversified to include more low carbon dioxide emitting sources, such as nuclear, solar, wind and hydro.”

The agency’s Climate Change and Nuclear Power 2013 report says emissions will need to be reduced by between 50 and 85 per cent by 2050 to avoid distressing climate change impacts in ecological and socioeconomic systems.

“According to recent IAEA publication, power generation is projected to contribute most to carbon dioxide mitigation – about 46 per cent,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

“The projected amount of carbon dioxide avoided by nuclear power is estimated at 3.2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide a year in 2050, for about 9 per cent of total carbon dioxide savings.

“Nuclear power is a proven technology that can be used as a base load electricity source contributing to energy and climate challenges, and it competes economically and environmentally with other sources.”

He said the UAE was diversifying its energy supplies with an emphasis on clean and renewable sources.

“Nuclear energy in the UAE will be a significant contributor to implement such strategy, being a clean source at a competitive cost,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

“The decision to pursue a nuclear programme in the UAE took into consideration the role of nuclear power in addressing climate-related challenges in the future.”

The UAE plans to operate four nuclear reactors by 2020.

“This will meet more than 20 per cent of UAE electricity demand by 2020,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

“Such plans are progressing well, with a potential for expansion beyond 2020.”

Experts say the lack of carbon emissions made nuclear energy attractive.

“If you look at the driving forces behind nuclear, it’s a combination of geopolitical issues of having an independent source of power and climate change,” said George Borovas, who heads the international nuclear projects team for the global law company Pillsbury.

“When you have that combination, it makes a lot of sense for many countries and the global economy.”

Without efforts to curb emissions, rising energy production could “trigger dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, says the study, which was released last month.

“Nuclear energy could account for about 15 per cent of the total greenhouse gas reduction in power generation in 2050, and it can contribute to resolving other energy supply concerns,” it says.

Mr Borovas said global projections of nuclear development showed there were plans for new projects.

“Nuclear already provides a big percentage of electricity around the world, and eventually it’ll have to be replaced because these were plants that were built in the 1980s,” he said.

“Climate change is one of the primary driving factors for countries around the world to invest in nuclear, and that’s why a lot of them will sustain and develop existing and new nuclear programmes.”

The report said projections of nuclear generating capacity pointed to a continued increase of nuclear power in the longer term.

“This year’s IAEA projection indicates anywhere between low 17 per cent to high 94 per cent projected growth by 2030, almost double the current nuclear generation capacity in the world,” said Mr Al Kaabi.

“The growth is driven by the economics of nuclear energy as well as in consideration to address energy-related climate challenges.

“The uniqueness of the nuclear technology requires adequate safety and security measures are in place, and therefore any expansion in nuclear energy should ensure such measures.”

cmalek@thenational.ae