Thursday, December 17, 2009

UAE, India and The Cable Car in Copenhagen

Yvo_de_Boer We wondered if the Dubai World debt problem was going to affect the nuclear ambitions of its fellow UAE member, Abu Dhabi. That would require more knowledge than we have of the financial interconnectedness of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.

Reuters reports that the IMF answers that question in the affirmative – sort of:

Masood Ahmed, director for the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, told reporters the IMF was looking at revising down its forecast for the UAE's non-oil gross domestic product to "significantly lower" than the 3 percent it had projected in October. That would still be higher than the close to zero forecast the IMF has forecast for the UAE in 2009.

And we don’t even want to try to fathom the IMF’s forecasts. However:

Despite the turmoil surrounding the Dubai crisis, Ahmed said he did not anticipate the UAE would need any financial support from the IMF and could easily deal with the fallout with its own resources.

That sounds guardedly positive. And it gives more heft to this report:

The United States and the United Arab Emirates are expected to sign a deal, Thursday, to make the Gulf kingdom the first Arab nation to have its own nuclear program. … The cooperation is being done in conjunction with the International Nuclear Energy Agency (IAEA).  … UAE leaders claim that nuclear power is needed to meet future energy demands.  

We agree. This is the culmination of the 123 agreement between the US and UAE, which will allow trade of nuclear technologies between the countries. Since Congress has not raised an objection to the treaty, it takes force today. So welcome to the family, UAE.

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123 refers to the section of the Atomic Energy Act that allows for nuclear trade between other countries and the US. An earlier one was finalized and signed by the Bush administration and India. The treaty doesn’t carry any kind of exclusive arrangement. Thus:

India and Canada has concluded negotiations on a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement through which the countries will collaborate on how to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

And India has been busy making such agreements all over the globe:

India has reached civil nuclear cooperation agreements with France, USA, Russia, Namibia, Mongolia and Argentina. Prior to this decision, civil nuclear cooperation with India had been hampered by the NSG's Guidelines for nuclear transfers first elaborated in 1978," stated an official release.

NSG is the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which issued approval for India to engage in such trade. (Important because India’s a non-signatory to non-proliferation agreements, usually a prerequisite to such a decision from the NSG.)

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These various agreement help us to remember that nuclear energy is zipping right along – with exceptional potential to help India meet its greenhouse emission gas reduction targets.

And speaking of such reductions, COP15, which would provide guidelines for them, has become so – well, chaotic is too strong. Let Yvo de Boer, the chief UN climate official, have a go at it:

[de Boer] admitted Wednesday evening that negotiations had unexpectedly stalled and said that the next 24 hours would be crucial.

That’s a little blah, especially since de Boer often has a nice way with words. Ah, here we go:

"The cable car has made an unexpected stop," De Boer told journalists. On Monday he had said that the "cable car" was halfway up the mountain and that the rest of the ride would be "fast, smooth and relaxing."

Well, we can hope – might yet be some frayed cable that needs replacing to prevent a steep plummet into an abyss.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently in Copenhagen, with President Obama following tomorrow. More on that at the link.

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Speaking of COP15, NEI’s Paul Genoa has participated in a podcast with Lloyd’s Register. This was recorded in Copenhagen but focuses much more on nuclear energy’s role and potential in this country. Well worth listening to as a state-of-the-industry primer – a transcript is available, too. Lloyd’s Register is doing a whole series of podcasts. See what else interests you while you’re over there. (These are basic mp3s, by the way. No iPod required.)

Yvo de Boer. We know Mr. de Boer is good at what he does, but we do wonder if he’s ever tempted to put his head down on the podium for a good, rattling cry.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The two primary aims of nuclear power in the `40s and `50s were inexhaustible energy i.e. breeding, and economically competitive electricity, both of which have been demonstrated. What has not been demonstrated is a large-scale breeder reactor that's cheap. The largest breeder, the French 1200MW Super-Phenix, was too expensive. Nearly all nuclear plants planned or proposed around the world are light water reactors that rely upon finite quantities of uranium which may peak within 10 years, just like oil & natural gas, and coal not long after. Super-Phenix has placed a cap on the cost of electricity for many future generations, if not for millennia... and this cap is surely less than twice current costs of electricity. Whether or not solar or fusion derived electricity shall match this, and eventually displace the breeder, remains to be seen. Indeed, the fast-breeder reactor may well be all that stands between what we identify as civilization and its alternatives. Will a future world of no less than 10,000 breeders be able to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium safely without cause of proliferation? Will battery technology improve enough to allow for electric cars? Will the public, fearful of reactor operator error, fight tooth and nail against the creation of a nuclear-powered world over the next couple of decades even as fossil fuels and uranium run short and economies continue to crumble? Only time will tell.

jagdish said...

Costs of various goods and technologies vary with time and place. The cost of Indian PFBR is nearly $1700/kW. It is more than Indian PHWR. However it is the route to energy security and costs may decrease after the prototype's First Of A Kind Engineering. The Russian fast reactor is reported to cost 15% more than the VVER. It is definitely worthwhile for Russia and India to continue to develop the FBR technology. Others could join the bandwagon after these two have reached some success.

Anonymous said...

http://www.energy.gov/news2009/documents2009/Chu_Climate_Challenge_12-14-09.pdf

Did you see Sec. Chu's Copenhagen slides? The word "nuclear" does not appear.

SteveK9 said...

Anonymous:

We will not run out of Uranium in 10 years or 100 years even with today's technology. Try googling James Hopf and uranium reserves if you want more facts. That said, the Russians have operated the BN600 breeder since the 80's. They have completed the design of the BN800 and are building one (they have also contracted to build two for China). And, there are plans to increase the size of the reactor again to 1200 MW.