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Thu 28 Jan 2010 08:32 AM

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General Electric CEO eyes ME nuclear deal

Jeff Immelt says he would 'love' nuclear deal in region after missing out on $40bn UAE contract.

General Electric CEO eyes ME nuclear deal
NUCLEAR HOPES: Jeff Immelt, the chairman and CEO of General Electric. (Getty Images)

US giant General Electric is still keen to win nuclear energy contracts in the Middle East, despite missing out on a $40bn deal to build and operate four nuclear reactors for the UAE last month, the CEO of the world’s largest company said on Thursday.

He told Arabian Business that the company would "love to do a nuclear project" in the region, as more Gulf states eye nuclear as an alternative energy source to hydrocarbons.

“I think Masdar City will be a good experiment and our view is we were a participant through our joint venture in nuclear to try to win the nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi we didn’t win it but we would love to do a nuclear project in the Middle East as more of them come open and commercially available,” Jeff Immelt, General Electric chairman and chief executive said.

He added: "One of the comments I always make in the US...is why do you think it is there is going to be a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi before there is one in the US? How can you explain that that in any logical flow?

"In the middle of a sea of oil they are going to build a nuclear power plant because they believe in energy diversity yet we can't get a nuclear power plan permanently built and online ahead of Abu Dhabi.

"I find it quite interesting that the people have the foresight, vision to want to move forward in that sense even when they don’t have."

Immelt's comments come just a few weeks after a consortium led by General Electric lost out in a bid to design, build and run four reactors in the UAE with capacity to produce 1,400 megawatts each of electricity.

The contract to build the plants was worth around $20bn, and the winning consortium, led by state-owned utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), expects to earn another $20bn by jointly operating the reactors for 60 years.

Work on the first nuclear plant in the Gulf Arab region is expected to begin in 2012, and all four reactors are due to be completed by 2020.

The UAE, the world's third-largest oil exporter, needs the nuclear power to help meet an expected rise in electricity demand to 40,000 MW in 2020 from around 15,000 MW last year, amid a petrodollar-fuelled economic boom.

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