x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Public support for nuclear energy in UAE rises

The survey finds a 16% increase in public support compared to last year, with 89% of locals wanting a reactor in their emirate.

ABU DHABI // Public support for nuclear power in the UAE has jumped by 16 per cent in one year, a study released yesterday by global research consultancy firm TNS suggests.

A total of 82 per cent of people surveyed are now in favour of nuclear, compared with 66 per cent last year, and they are even in favour of a plant being built in their emirates.

The poll of 750 residents also found awareness of nuclear energy had increased by 13 per cent on 2011 figures, and that 55 per cent of respondents now view this form of energy as a main source of power generation, second only to oil.

Hamad Al Kaabi, the Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said public support of the nuclear programme continued to be high as a result of the UAE's transparent approach and commitments to the highest standards of safety.

"Engagement with the public in a transparent manner and addressing their concerns is a fundamental principle of the UAE policy," Mr Al Kaabi said.

"The successful steps that have been taken by all the stakeholders in advancing the programme, along with the full international support, contribute positively to the public confidence in the nuclear energy programme."

Fahad Al Qahtani, director of external communications at the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), said there were three reasons for the growth in support: the success of the energy market in the UAE; the country's awareness of nuclear power; and the Government's support for it.

"The success stories of the oil and gas, renewable energies, infrastructure and utilities industries in the UAE helped the nuclear-energy field," Mr Al Qahtani said.

"Also, the UAE is a nation that has a high energy-awareness level and the public understand the need for diversification."

The TNS report showed strong support for nuclear among Emiratis, with 89 per cent of locals keen on the idea of a nuclear power plant being built in their emirate, up from 67 per cent in 2011.

The UAE is to build four nuclear reactors by 2020. Construction on the first plant, in the Western Region, started last year and it is expected to be operational by 2017.

The country is the first in the world to implement a nuclear programme since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 in Ukraine.

Dale Klein, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and associate director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, last year said the Emirates had been forward-thinking in its pursuit of nuclear power and employed a "logical and well-thought-out approach".

Mr Al Qahtani added the policy "not only garnered local support but international support".

While various studies have shown that international public support for nuclear power is low, particularly after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, more recent surveys show growing support.

Several reports from Britain in late 2011 suggested nuclear power was gaining public support after Fukushima.

And a World Energy Issues Monitor report last month said while nuclear energy continues to be closely observed and debated, its perceived uncertainty and impact have dropped to pre-Fukushima levels.

The survey saw a decline in concerns related to overall safety of nuclear power plants compared to the year before.

The issue of waste disposal has been studied by the Government and it intends to avoid disposing of spent fuel locally, although a final decision has yet to be reached.

"The storage issue is being dealt with at a government level," Mr Al Qahtani said. "Whatever the decision, Enec will implement the highest safety standards and every step will be communicated to the public.

"Enec is making itself available to the public and we have been receiving numerous inquiries from the public. We are continuously engaging them."

 

amustafa@thenational.ae