x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE nuclear-waste study results this month

The International Advisory Board says researchers have 'achieved considerable progress' since they began work on the study in February last year.

DUBAI // A study into how the UAE should dispose of its nuclear waste will be completed this month as planned, a progress report says.

The International Advisory Board (IAB) says researchers have "achieved considerable progress" since they began work on the study in February last year.

The IAB, the group of nuclear experts appointed by the state in February 2010 to oversee the progress of the national nuclear programme, made the statement in its semi-annual report released on Monday.

"The relevant study will be completed in May and all members were of the view that the development of a policy for management by the UAE of its high-level waste is important," said Dr Hans Blix, the chairman of the advisory board.

Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he would brief the IAB on the study once it was completed.

The report said the national waste-disposal policy would be developed by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nuclear waste has been a key area of concern for citizens.

"We have received many inquiries about nuclear waste," Fahad Al Qahtani, the director of external affairs and communications at Enec, said last month.

Storing nuclear waste in the UAE is one option presented to the IAB by Enec this year.

The storage plan would unfold in two phases and would provide enough space to hold the waste for a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 100.

The second phase will be chosen from three current options, the report says.

The first option is to have the waste reprocessed outside the UAE; the second to maintain a commercial-fuel lease agreement, which includes sending spent fuel back to its country of origin; and the third is to create a deep, geological repository in the country.

"Enec is currently conducting a table-top study to identify possible sites for such a geological repository in the UAE," the IAB report said.

Enec is also working to create enough space at the Braka nuclear site in Al Gharbia for a dry-cask storage to be built there.

Dry-cask storage involves placing cooled, spent rods in a concrete-encased steel canister.

The IAB says every waste disposal option is being considered and a final government decision on the subject is yet to be made. The IAB report also addressed progress in the equally debated area of the national nuclear programme: security plans.

Dr Blix said the plan to secure the national plants have been well appraised.

"At the March 2011 meeting the IAB expressed its desire for a detailed presentation on the issue of cyber security," he said.

"The board also asked for more information on the design basis threat process and plans for fresh and spent fuel transportation."

Enec has since presented the essential details of its security plans to IAB, including a cyber-security strategy.

The board praised the innovative approaches taken to provide security against possible malevolent acts by insiders who conduct maintenance and testing of digital protection and control systems.

The IAB report also said the UAE was pushing ahead with a study on the viability of developing a nuclear fuel assembly plant in Abu Dhabi.

The plant would allow the UAE to build its own nuclear rods for use in the power plants, using imported uranium.

amustafa@thenational.ae

 

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