x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE focusing on peaceful use of nuclear energy

The UAE hosted a workshop in Vienna to discuss issues of nuclear security and safety.

VIENNA // The UAE is strengthening its focus on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and hosted a workshop for journalists from the Middle East in Vienna last month.

Held at the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) in collaboration with Atomic Reporters, the workshop focused on nuclear security and safety.

“The concept is about giving access and information about technical” details, said Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “The concept of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons is one of the issues that has a long history that took decades to mature. It is a very unique region [due to] all kinds of factors, such as nuclear weapons and non-compliance that engage world powers to solve them.

“But the UAE is interested in this because UAE policy has always been about transparency and openness.”

Several speakers expressed concern about nuclear weapons in the region.

“There are many states making critical decisions on nuclear at the moment that will affect future generations,” said Julian Borger, diplomatic editor at The Guardian. “Climate change is comparable as an issue but nuclear weapons have a much stronger capability of ending the world.”

Increased governance is needed in regional countries to accept some of the evolving regulations.

“Today we are struggling with all the current regimes, like the Missile Technology Control Regime, as developing countries,” said Mohammed Shaker, ambassador and chairman at the Egyptian council of foreign affairs.

Experts expressed concern that there was no way to control nuclear weapons.

“There is really only one WMD and that is nuclear weapons, because there is no defence against them,” said Tariq Rauf, director of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “You can defend against chemical and biological but not nuclear. There is, as of yet, no prohibition on nuclear weapons other than the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nine countries possess them and they are not restricted to any international prohibition.”

He said, however, that nuclear weapons were still useful in the arsenal of those nine countries.

“Nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence and strategy are important components still of international diplomacy. Because of the sheer destruction of nuclear weapons, it makes it more important that the international community has struggled to find a way to control [them].”

He said arms control should not be linked to domestic politics.

“Arms control is not a favour for good international behaviour.”

Since the Cold War ended, the estimated number of nuclear weapons dropped from 55,000 by about two thirds, with the US possessing 5,000 and Russia 12,000. Dismantling them will take decades.

“The US has about 4,000 weapons designated for dismantlement and Russia has 6,000 to 7,000,” said Dr Nikolai Sokov, a senior fellow at the VCDNP. “But to dismantle a nuclear weapon takes a long time and it is very expensive. These things will take years, about 15 to 20 to do the technical job.”

He said nuclear weapons had to be managed.

“As long as nuclear weapons exist, they need to be maintained,” Dr Sokov said. “An option is to reduce and manage nuclear arsenals, manage conventional strategic weapons and defence capabilities. This will represent a step towards nuclear disarmament.”

cmalek@thenational.ae