x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE a model for nuclear power

First lecture in series looks at security of the energy source

ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi has set a global standard in establishing a "responsible" nuclear power plant programme, the main speaker at a new series of lectures in the capital said last night.

Dr Graham Allison, the director of Harvard University's Belfer Centre for Science and Technology, said that in order to avoid "catastrophic" scenarios, such as nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists, it was vital for there to be "no new nascent nukes", or no new national production of uranium or plutonium.

"Abu Dhabi is doing this," he said. "I congratulate Abu Dhabi for its civilian nuclear plan, which forswears any creation of uranium or plutonium. If only the rest of the world would behave like that."

Nuclear power plants, were a responsible option if correctly implemented, he said. Although there were risks, as demonstrated at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant - where uncertainty surrounds the status of three reactors following Friday's earthquake and tsunami - those risks could be minimalised by proper construction and operation.

"The risk comes not from the nuclear power plant but from the facility that makes the fuel for the plant, called the enrichment facility," he said. "The concern for the international community is from the fuel cycle and from the disposal of the waste coming out."

Dr Allison was the first speaker to take part in Khalifa University's series of public lectures, which will bring distinguished speakers from around the world to discuss science, technology and society. Future lectures will address topics ranging from the information age, biotechnology, robotics, climate change and sustainable development, among others, said Professor Tod Laursen, the president of Khalifa University. Last night, at the Emirates Palace hotel, Dr Allison inaugurated the series with a discussion on the fragility of the global nuclear order, and addressed the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe and the threat posed by the nuclear programmes of countries such as Iran and North Korea.

"The global nuclear order tonight is as fragile as the landscape of the Middle East was this time last year, when it otherwise looked fairly stable, or as fragile as the global financial order was three years ago, when we were assured it was sound, stable and resilient," he said.

He said the international community should embrace the "doctrine of three nos" in trying to prevent nuclear terrorism, a theory Dr Allison presented in his 2004 book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe. The book is now in its third printing and was selected by The New York Times as one of the 100 most notable books of 2004.

The three nos, said Dr Allison, were "no new nukes, no new nascent nukes and no new nuclear weapon states".

hkhalaf@thenational.ae