x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Nuclear envoy appointed

The Government has appointed an ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a spokesman said yesterday.

The Government has published a policy document outlining plans to build a fleet of atomic reactors designed to fuel economic growth for the next generation and diversify from fossil fuels.
The Government has published a policy document outlining plans to build a fleet of atomic reactors designed to fuel economic growth for the next generation and diversify from fossil fuels.

The Government has taken another step towards launching a nuclear energy programme by appointing an ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a spokesman said yesterday. The cabinet appointed Hamed al Kaabi, a nuclear scientist at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as envoy to the Vienna-based organisation that regulates the industry and enforces strict international rules preventing the spread of atomic weapons.

The Government has published a policy document outlining plans to build a fleet of atomic reactors designed to fuel economic growth for the next generation and diversify from fossil fuels. "The Government has declared its intention, now it is taking the steps to get into a nuclear programme," the spokesman said. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, which is tasked with implementing the programme, met contractors last month with a view to appointing a managing agent to oversee the design, engineering and construction of the reactors.

Faced with an expected shortage of natural gas and possible global taxes on carbon emissions, officials hope to rely on atomic energy for a third of the nation's power needs within a decade. The Government has yet to give the programme the final go-ahead, but it has already signed nuclear co-operation agreements with France, Britain and the US. Five other nuclear powers - Germany, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia - are also expected to sign partnerships to give the broadest possible diplomatic backing, as well as access to the best technology and expertise.

To demonstrate the Government's peaceful objectives, it has promised to forgo any enrichment of uranium and intends to import the reactor fuel from foreign sources. By contrast, Iran's nuclear programme involves enrichment, which could be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its programme is purely peaceful, but it has faced a growing raft of sanctions and threats from Western powers. The Government has promised the highest levels of transparency to ensure global backing for its programme, which could produce its first kilowatt in 2016.

Several other Gulf countries have announced similar plans, but none is as advanced as the programme here. The Government is expected to give the green light to the scheme before the end of this year, with a view to awarding construction contracts next year. tashby@thenational.ae