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Sat 31 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Nuclear could fuel construction

Tony Blair has backed the UAE's nuclear power ambitions to ensure that the nation can drive its large-scale developments over the coming decades.

Tony Blair has backed the UAE's nuclear power ambitions to ensure that the nation can drive its large-scale developments over the coming decades.

Demand for electricity has increased rapidly over the past five years in line with the construction boom, leading the UAE to sign nuclear agreements with a number of countries.

"My view is that there will be a renaissance of nuclear power," Blair said, speaking before delivering the closing speech at last week's World Future Energy Summit.

Blair acknowledged the controversy surrounding nuclear power generation, but said it must be considered if the world was to "get anywhere near" the 50% cut in carbon emissions agreed upon as a target by the G8 nations.

"Even if you are not keen on nuclear power you have at least got to put it on the agenda," he said.

The UAE became the first Gulf country to take steps towards nuclear power generation when it signed a civil nuclear deal with the US on January 15.

According to estimates, the agreement could see the UAE develop a nuclear power generating industry by 2017.

The deal forbids the UAE from enriching uranium and producing nuclear fuel itself, instead allowing it to purchase fuel from abroad for a reactor.

The clause was added as a safeguard to ensure a peaceful nuclear programme, safeguarding the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which the UAE acceded in 1995, it may receive nuclear technology and materials for the development of a nuclear energy programme, provided it can demonstrate that the programme will not be used for the development of weapons.

The UAE signed a similar memorandum of understanding with Japan on January 20. A formal agreement was also signed with France in January 2008.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority managing director and CEO Saeed Al Tayer has called growth in demand "unique world-wide."

The UK has also expressed an interest in investing in a civilian nuclear programme in the UAE.

Speaking at the 14th annual energy conference, Nuclear Energy in the Gulf last November, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said, "The UK is a partner of great interest to the UAE in the pursuit of a civilian nuclear capability."

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