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Wed 16 Nov 2011 12:39 PM

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Nuclear experts to quiz UAE over safety issues

Gulf state set to build four reactors under planned $20bn nuclear program

Nuclear experts to quiz UAE over safety issues
The UAE is pressing ahead with plans to develop four nuclear reactors

International nuclear experts plan to cross-examine UAE authorities on radiation protection and the lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima crisis during a trip to the Gulf state next week.

The delegation, led by Hans Blix, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is part of a panel established by the UAE to review its nuclear energy programme as it looks to meet rising demand for electricity and boost fossil fuel exports.

UAE authorities are expected to discuss operational safety, radiation protection and the impact of climate change, according to an annual report published by the International Advisory Board.

The panel, making its third visit to the UAE, will pay particular attention to any revisions made in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused radioactive material to be released from its Fukushima plant.

“The board would like an in-depth briefing on how the relevant safely aspects of the reactors to be deployed at the Braka site have been assessed in the light of the lessons learned from Fukushima accident,” the report said.  

“The IBA would like to hear more at the November meeting on radiation protection. For example, who will analyse the radiation sources and how will the limits on workers be set?”

During the advisory board’s March meeting it noted that “considerable progress was being made on operational safety” but said UAE authorities had made no progress on “expanding the scope of its human resources development beyond the narrow requirements of the construction, operational and maintenance of nuclear power plants to broader subjects in technical science.”

The UAE is one of several countries in the Middle East that is looking to develop a civilian nuclear programme as it looks to keep up with growing energy demands. Electricity demand in the world’s third largest oil exporter is expected to increase from 18,000 megawatts per day to 40,000 by 2020, according to official statistics.

The UAE plans to build four reactors by 2020 under a $20bn nuclear program, with the first expected to start commercial operations by 2017.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) in October asked FANR to approve regulatory work for the country’s first nuclear power plant after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in March. ENEC is still awaiting approval to build the Braka nuclear Units 1 and 2.

The UAE awarded the contract to build the reactors to a consortium of Korean companies in December 2009.

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