Just for fun, let’s combine a couple of topics into something miasmic – who knows, maybe even phantasmagoric. Lately, we’ve noted that despite some expectation in the press that nuclear energy would go gently into that long night, it seems be staying out in the daylight. Even countries that have notably downbeat on ever implement nuclear energy have shown at least shivers of interest.
Thus, this editorial in the Canberra Times:
The United Arab Emirates is not a country that springs to mind as one in need of nuclear power. The small federation on the Arabian peninsula has oil reserves ranked as the world's sixth largest, and could conceivably use this resource to generate cheap and plentiful power for decades.
The news hook here is that UAE has pacted with Australia for some of its plentiful uranium to run its reactors, but I found the Canberra Times’ bluntness, which can sound a little rude to American ears, to be refreshing:
Although the UAE's foreign minister stressed that it was not a commercial export agreement, anti-nuclear campaigners in Australia criticized the development, saying that not only was it out of step with energy developments elsewhere in the world, but that it risked adding to the region's volatility.
Such anti-nuclear sentiment is routine in the environment movement, though seldom accurate or rationally based.
The editorial takes a swing at the German decision to close plants, saying that “it is by no means clear that this is practicable or advisable.”
Can’t say there’s anything to disagree with here, but it does beg the question, what then about Australia, mate?
It makes good sense for the UAE to go nuclear: doing so allows it to save its non-renewable oil for export rather than using it to generate electricity, and significant new economic development opportunities will be created in the process. Would that Australia was similarly pragmatic about its own long-term energy strategies.
Not to tell an Australian his or her business, but just wait. It only seems a matter of time.
PS: The headline is great: Dismiss Nuclear Energy at Peril – although, to be honest, the editorial doesn’t match its headline that well.
And it we’re going to tweak Australia with the UAE even if inadvertently, it only seems proper to see how the UAE is doing with its nuclear facility.
The United Arab Emirates geared up Wednesday to begin construction of its first nuclear energy plant after the oil-rich country's nuclear regulator gave its blessing for work to begin.
The green light by the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation will make the seven-state federation the first country in more than two and a half decades to begin building its first nuclear power plant.
This happened last month. The home page for the UAE regulator, acronym FANR, is English friendly and worth a visit. Maybe the good English language has to do with the way UAE builds website and perhaps something more to do with FANR’s director, General William Travers, who hails from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Just as a reminder, most of UAE’s seven emirates are very lightly populated (Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have about 80 percent of the population) and the country in total has about 8.2 million people. That’s almost double its population five years ago, largely due to foreign workers – only about 30 percent of the current population is native Emirati.
The nuclear facility will take some advantage of the fact that most of UAE’s land could be considered remote.
The license covers the construction of the first two reactors of a plant slated for a remote coastal site near the border with Saudi Arabia.
So we know that UAE will be getting uranium from Australia. What about the reactors?
ENEC in late 2009 awarded the $20 billion contract to build the power plant to a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. The Korean company beat out more seasoned atomic power producers in France, Japan and the United States. It will be the first time South Korea is building a nuclear plant overseas.
ENEC is the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., which will operate the facility. The first reactor is expected to go online in 2017.
I’ve no real point here – well, maybe that the UAE has been remarkably determined to get a nuclear energy infrastructure up and running and have wasted no time doing so. We’ve been following this since at least 2008 when it still looked as though Abu Dhabi would go it alone with the help of the British. And now ENEC is assembling the pieces it needs to be online by 2017. All this activity has an almost old-fashioned vibe to it, doesn’t it? - to a time when essential infrastructure projects could go from ideation to fruition in no time flat. (We should note that the American projects in Georgia and South Carolina are zipping right along, too.)
A model of the UAE nuclear energy facility. I may have overlooked it, but it seems not to be named yet. Maybe it’ll be Al Ruwais after the nearest town.