DUBAI — The government of the United Arab Emirates said Monday it has signed an agreement with Russia on the development and use of civilian nuclear power, as the wealthy Gulf oil producer looks at ways to feed its growing energy consumption without eating away at its exports.
The agreement with Russia to share technology, equipment and nuclear material comes after the Gulf state’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation gave the go-ahead earlier this year for construction of two nuclear reactors, the first in a string of civilian power plants planned in the Gulf.
Several Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, are looking at nuclear power to meet rising electricity demand, especially during the summer when demand for air conditioning soars.
The UAE, one of the world’s top five power consumers per capita, hopes that nuclear energy will eventually help it meet 25 percent of its consumption even as its economy expands. Currently, around 80 percent of the country’s power is generated from burning natural gas, while the rest comes from oil, which the Gulf state wants to preserve for lucrative crude exports.
The Russian agreement is a necessary precursor to commercial contracts that would involve the transfer of nuclear technology or material between the two countries, the statement said. It follows similar accords with Australia and Canada, who are producers of uranium, and the US, the UK, South Korea and France, who already have large nuclear power industries, the UAE government said in a statement.
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) signed in August contracts worth $3 billion with six international companies, including Russia’s Tenex, Rio Tinto PLC and France’s Areva SA (ARVCY), to supply nuclear fuel, conversion and enrichment services for its four planned nuclear reactors.
The contracts, which cover the first 15 years of the reactors’ operations, will provide ENEC with long-term security of supply, and favorable pricing and commercial terms, the company said. ENEC said it expects to return to the market again in the future, when conditions are favorable, to strengthen its supply position.
ENEC has secured a construction license for two South Korea-designed advanced pressurized water reactors, each capable of producing 1,400 megawatts of electricity. The state company, which develops nuclear power plants in the UAE, has already started construction of the first unit in Barakah, in western Abu Dhabi, and is expected to start building its second reactor next year.
The UAE is investing billions of dollars in developing alternate sources of energy as part of plans to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons. Its planned nuclear reactors are set to be the first in a string of civilian power plants in the Middle East, potentially including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The UAE is committed to not enriching uranium itself or to reprocessing spent fuel.
Hamad Al-Kaabi, the Gulf state’s national representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog, has previously said that the UAE hasn’t yet finalized a strategy for managing spent fuel from the reactors, but a national waste strategy document is in advanced stages of negotiation. — Agencies