Tuesday, December 29, 2009

“Because Nuclear Power Is Less Costly"

uae_spaceport_02 Reuters has put up an interesting “Fact Box” detailing which countries in the middle East and African want to knock together a few nuclear energy plants. It includes countries we’ve discussed here but a fair number we haven’t, including Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Namibia, Niger, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and UAE.

Some of these are in very early stages of planning and the list is not free of red flags ready to spring up. But it’s a great overview and it’s interesting to see countries with significant supplies of uranium pursue nuclear energy. That’s energy security writ large, something uranium-rich, nuclear-free Australia should consider.


There have been a few news stories about the Japanese reluctance to work with India on the latter’s nuclear efforts, but we admit we steered around it because we didn’t quite get the gist of it – India has plenty of partners without worrying about Japan. But apparently, it’s important to the two countries, as this Indian story indicates:

Japan is set to be India’s new ally on civil nuclear energy,  with Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama expressing a willingness to collaborate with India’s civil nuclear energy program. This hint by Hatoyama is a shot in the arm for India’s campaign for energy security and power diversification to meet the ever growing demand of both industry and farm sectors.

We cleaned up the poor translation here, so visit the original for the full flavor. Anyhow, we still wonder if this is an historical and cultural landmark rather than a political one. The story hints at this:

India not signing the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) has been the biggest stumbling block for exploring full-fledged partnership with Japan on civil nuclear energy front.

And that treaty, for we hope obvious reasons, is very important to Japan. But word from India seems tepid:

[Indian Prime Minister Manmohan] Singh said: “Should the US and China ratify the CTBT, a new situation will emerge.”

And yet it looks very likely that Japan and India will make an agreement over nuclear technology. Especially where this dips into cultural waters, we really have no comment – that would be presumptuous - but in practical terms only, it seems a potential win for both sides. We’ll have to see if this deal consummates or withers after Singh and Hatoyama meet for talks. (Any elucidation on this from our Japanese and Indian friends welcome.)


And here’s an interesting story from Emirates Business – we expect the whole Dubai World story has caused them some sleepless nights – on just why UAE is considering nuclear energy:

"These are very important and strategic long-term projects, which will contribute to saving the UAE's hydrocarbon wealth and at the same time boosting its crude exports as nuclear power will partly offset the rise in the UAE's energy consumption… this in turn will allow the UAE to increase revenue," said Mohammed Asumi, a Dubai-based Gulf economist.

"I also expect these projects, when commissioned, to depress electricity generation costs in the UAE because nuclear power is less costly."

Well, we knew money had to play a part somewhere in this, but we were happy to see Asumi note that a nuclear plant will bring down costs. Presumably, UAE could also export some of the nuclear generated electricity to neighbors such as Oman and Qatar.

As a business story, this goes a bit into the weeds, but is very well done ( by Nadim Kawach) and comprehensible. Well worth a read.

A UAE spaceport. See here for more.

Local tourism was not attractive enough that UAE’s other lesser known state of Ras Al Khaimah is now the venue for the 30 billion USD Spaceport. Space Adventures is developing commercial spaceports in this region.  They are the pioneers of space tourism.

Or something. We admit we make fun of the grandiosity of UAE every time we write about it, perhaps in part out of discomfort over what it takes in resources and human capital to maintain that grandiosity and definitely because the line between grandiosity and pomposity is thin. We can’t pretend to know what will now happen in UAE in the wake of Dubai World – and not just or even primarily its nuclear ambitions - but it does make the fun rather ashy and dry.

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