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UAE says to build nuclear power reactor

The United Arab Emirates will work closely with the UN’s nuclear watchdog for its planned nuclear power program to assure the world it remains peaceful, its foreign minister said on Sunday.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said the close US ally had discussed its plans with the permanent members of the UN Security Council among other countries. The UAE lies across a short stretch of the Gulf from fellow oil exporter Iran, which is facing international pressure to halt its nuclear enrichment program. “The United Arab Emirates recognizes the special circumstances and considerations that surround not only the deployment of nuclear reactors but also the simple evaluation of such possibility,” Sheikh Abdullah said. “The government of the UAE wishes to make clear its peaceful and unambiguous objectives in respect of its current evaluation of a peaceful nuclear energy program, as well as the potential future deployment of actual nuclear power generation,” he said.

Iran says its nuclear program is also aimed at generating electricity but the United States and other Western powers say it plans to build atomic weapons. Unlike Iran, the UAE has said, it would not enrich uranium itself but import nuclear fuel for its plants, easing any fears about the purpose of its plan. Sheikh Abdullah’s remarks came in a statement as the Gulf Arab state issued a “white paper” on its nuclear plans.

The UAE had consultations with France, the United States, Britain, Russia, China, Germany, Japan and South Korea, he said. Sheikh Abdullah said the UAE nuclear program would be completely transparent, have the highest non-proliferation, security and safety standards and work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN atomic watchdog. The UAE has said it plans to establish a $100 million agency to look into developing nuclear energy to satisfy rising electricity demand as its economy booms on record oil income. The UAE has said it would draw up a set of laws to govern the sector and establish a nuclear regulatory authority and an international advisory board of nuclear experts as well as to seek assistance from other governments. The UAE would offer joint ventures to foreign investors to build and operate potential power plants using only advanced third-generation light water reactors, it said.

France’s Total, Suez, and state nuclear reactor maker Areva said in January, they would develop two third-generation nuclear reactors in the UAE with a possible start date of 2016. An IAEA official told Reuters at the time that he did not expect to see a nuclear plant running in the Gulf before 2020. Electricity demand in the Gulf Arab state has rocketed, straining the country’s power grid, as record oil revenues fuel economic expansion and the population mushrooms. (Reuters)