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U.A.E. Moves Quickly on Nuclear Energy

UAE-Dubai-Burj-Al-Arab-Hotel-SP The Wall Street Journal looks in at the nuclear doings on the Arabian Peninsula. We’ve looked at this before, but a lot has happened in a relatively short time:

Dozens of American engineers, lawyers and businessmen have converged on Abu Dhabi in recent months to help the United Arab Emirates get the Arab world's first nuclear-power program running by 2017.

Why so many Americans? The answer may surprise you:

Even as the U.S. remains determined to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons, President Barack Obama sees the U.A.E. program as a "model for the world," according to a senior White House official, and by mid-April could move to present a bilateral nuclear-cooperation treaty to Congress for approval.

This is the so-called 123 agreement negotiated late in the Bush administration (123 refers to the section in the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954 that permits trade in nuclear materials and technologies.) And while there was some doubt Obama would conclude it, it’s full steam ahead.

There are concerns, of course, including U.A.E.’s relations with Iran, especially allowing their ports to be used as way stations for dicey materials. They’ve been working to make that less problematic:

Over the past three years, U.A.E. officials say, they have shut down 40 Iranian companies operating in Dubai over either export-control violations or lack of proper licenses. In the past six months, Emirati authorities have also blocked more then 10 shipments of goods for potential military use heading to Iran through Dubai, largely from Asia.

No one – by which we mean in Congress - seems to worry much about proliferation from U.A.E or that U.A.E. might have bad intentions of its own. If you remember the hullabaloo about allowing an Abu Dhabi company to oversee American ports, this is a remarkable shift in attitude in a short time.

The country is working with International Atomic Energy Agency, is a signatory to the non-proliferation agreements, and has picked up partnerships with the big global players – Russia, France, Great Britain and China.

The United States can contribute technical assistance but needs the 123 agreement to propose building a plant or two there. (Once Obama submits the treaty to Congress, they can vote it down or ignore it. If the latter, it takes 90 days for it to achieve the force of law.)

The U.A.E. is seven states - Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain – although Abu Dhabi, the capital, and Dubai, the major port, are the ones that generate all the news. Six of the seven cluster in the northern quandrant of the country, with Abu Dhabi taking the rest of the land mass. The population is about 4.2 million people.


This is the Burj Al Arab Hotel. We guess it’s a sign of the wealth in U.A.E. that they really go nuts over modern, even edgy architecture and splash out a lot of coin to see interesting buildings realized.

Here’s how its site describes it: “Designed to resemble a billowing sail, Burj Al Arab soars to a height of 321 metres, dominating the Dubai skyline. Illuminated at night by choreographed lighting representing water and fire – Burj Al Arab is simply individual, inspired, impressive.” We’d have to see that night show – could be impressive, could be campy.


Ioannes said…
Does anybody think there's a chance (I mean a good likelihood - there's always a chance!) that the UAE will go with GEH's ABWR or ESBWR?
Jason Ribeiro said…
I think given the recent flatline of GE's ESBWR that design won't be a contender simply because GE doesn't show the commitment.

There is evidence that Dubai is interested in the thorium cycle.

This is a country that loves big projects and challenges. They are completing the world's tallest building. I have no doubt that they will see many advantages in thorium and pursue that route in some way.
Ioannes said…

The World Nuclear Association said in Febuary 2009:

By 2020 UAE hopes to have three 1500 MWe nuclear plants running and producing electricity at a quarter the cost of that from gas.

As well as Areva’s EPR, Westinghouse AP1000 and GE-Hitachi ABWR technology is said to be under consideration....

...The USA signed a bilateral nuclear energy cooperation agreement with the UAE in January 2009.

Anonymous said…
General Electric - Hitachi is not going to sell any nuclear power plants. They've already lost most of their initial customers. They never learned from the 1980's that standardization is the key to success in building new plants, and thus they have divided their resources between two designs advocated by competing factions inside their company, leaving both designs half baked (there is some fantasy within GEH that the ABWR can be built easily since it has an antiquated Design Certification, neglecting the fact that the ABWR needs a major licensing rework to meet the most recent NRC requirements that will likely take longer than needed to complete the ESBWR design certification). Right now GE-H's management decisions look a lot like General Motors. Too bad.
Ioannes said…
I hope that Anonymous is incorrect. But right now I see ABWR being done out of san Josa and ESBWR out of Wilmington, and the two infrastructures being run independently. I am not a business man, so I wouldn't know if this is a workable model or not. I want Anonymous to be incorrect, but my naturally pessimistic nature says otherwise. It'd be a rotten shame for the world to be dominated by PWR technology and no more new BWRs. :-(
Anonymous said…
As far as GE goes, everything I have heard is that their designs are several years behind if they will ever be considered at all. The comment about it being a shame if only PWRs are built seems kind of odd since a PWR is a superior technology to begin with.

I really hope my company wins this proposal, Dubai is the place EVERY engineer wants to end up. The sort of place where engineers are treated like rock stars (and paid accordingly :p).
Anonymous said…
"The comment about it being a shame if only PWRs are built seems kind of odd since a PWR is a superior technology to begin with."

Them's fightin' words!
Anonymous said…
UAE and Nuclear Energy, is a Joke, but it is good to USA for getting billions of $.

UAE nationals they failed in managing goverment departments in paperwork. How they will handle suhc Nucleal Plants and reactors.
It is a real joke of 2009.

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