x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Expert praises UAE nuclear development

Industry expert says the country has been forward-thinking in its pursuit of nuclear power.

ABU DHABI // The UAE is the "gold standard" on which other countries should model their quest for nuclear power, an international industry expert says.

The Emirates has applied a "logical, well thought-out approach" to building the country's first four reactors, said Dr Dale Klein, a former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The country has been transparent about its plans and progress, which is central to building international and local trust, said Dr Klein, who is also the associate director of The Energy Institute at the University of Texas.

"The United Arab Emirates has been very good at explaining to the public what nuclear means, why it's important for the country and what steps it's taking," he said. "It's very important that people understand how nuclear power plants work and why they're being built."

Dr Klein's comments on Tuesday were part of a lecture at the majlis of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Infrastructure work and site preparation have begun for the four nuclear reactors in Baraka, more than 50 kilometres from Ruwais in Al Gharbia. The first plant is expected to start operating in 2017, with three more plants scheduled to be completed and operational by 2020.

Four more may also be in the works.

The UAE has made changes to its nuclear plans after the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year, Dr Klein said.

While the region is not likely to be struck by a major earthquake or tsunami, authorities have to account for Gulf conditions such as extreme heat and dust storms.

Watertight seals and battery compartments, which were missing at Fukushima, have been added to the plans for the Baraka plants and Dr Klein recommended extra electricity generators.

The UAE's nuclear progress is in stark contrast to neighbouring Iran, he said.

"Iran is not as transparent as the world would like," Dr Klein said. "It's not clear what their level of safety is. It's not clear what their level of training is.

"Radiation does not stop at a border. Their nuclear programme could be important for surrounding countries."

More than 60 nuclear reactors are under construction around the world, joining the more than 435 already in operation.

jthomas@thenational.ae