The UAE has set a target date of 2015 to 2017 for the generation of nuclear power in the country, according to an official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It plans to complete its first nuclear plant by that time, said Ali Boussaha, director, division of Africa, for the IAEA on the sidelines of the GCC Nuclear Summit in Dubai on Thursday.
The UAE is pushing ahead with the nuclear option to meet a surge in power consumption, which is rising nine percent annually, following a decision on Thursday by US President Barack Obama to approve a civilian nuclear deal with the Emirates.
The country was planning to start building its first nuclear plant by 2011 to 2012, according to Vincent Nkong-Njock, a nuclear power engineer at IAEA.
It is estimated it takes seven to ten years to build a nuclear power plant and up to 15 years where the nuclear infrastructure is not yet in place, according to Adnan Shihab-Eldin, former secretary general of OPEC and a nuclear power expert.
The target date of 2015 for power generation was “tight but doable”, he added.
“They are going about it very fast,” he said, but added that a year or two more could be factored into the development plans.
UAE government officials were in the process of appointing consultants to prepare bidding documents, setting up organisations and signing agreements, he said.
“The (UAE's) time frame is optimistic as evidence from elsewhere shows it takes a minimum of five years to build a power plant,” Nkong-Njock said.
Nuclear power was economically viable for the GCC if oil prices remained at the $70 a barrel mark, Shihab-Eldin added.
It is estimated it costs between $3bn to $5bn to build a plant that could produce over 1,000 megawatts of power, said Boussaha.
US-UAE cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energyl was negotiated by the previous Bush administration.
Although Obama has now approved the plan Congress still has 90 days to decide whether to block the pact, or sign it off. “It’s a very positive step and I expect it (the deal) to be passed by the US Congress,” said Shihab-Eldin. William Borchardt, executive director for operations, of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a US government agency, said: “We are already building a strong relationship with the new regulatory authority in the UAE and are working closely with them.”
The government in Abu Dhabi was considering a selection of sites for the plant and is in the process of doing a feasibility study, Boussaha added.
The plant would be able to employ 4,000 people, he said.
Two further plants are planned.For all the latest energy and oil news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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