UAE, Australia agree to cooperate

01 August 2012

A cooperation agreement in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy has been signed between Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The accord could lead to the supply of Australian uranium to fuel the UAE's forthcoming nuclear power reactor fleet.

Australia-UAE agreement
The signing of the agreement (Image: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The agreement was signed in Abu Dhabi by UAE minister of foreign affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr. It sets a framework for cooperation between the two countries in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and facilitates future private sector uranium sales to the UAE. The agreement also covers conditions for the supply of nuclear material, components related to nuclear technology and associated equipment for use in a domestic power industry. It explicitly prohibits the use of Australian nuclear material in weapons.

Following the signing of the agreement, Al Nahyan noted that Australia "is a leading country in uranium supply with 40% of the world's reserves and a vast experience in the field." While the signing of uranium supply contracts may be some years away, he said, "It is up to future work between importers and exporters to reach suitable prices and quantities."

Carr noted, "Strict safeguards will apply, including for the safe handling and security of radioactive material, restrictions on re-export and guarantees of use for peaceful purposes. These mirror arrangements in Australia's other nuclear cooperation agreements, with Canada, Republic of Korea, China, the United States and elsewhere."

The Australian minister pointed out that the UAE has complied with all international laws and conventions with regards to its nuclear energy program. "The UAE meets all the tests, and the tests are rigorous and extensive and we're happy to make a big commitment to providing them with energy security," he told The National newspaper. He added, "We are glad to be part of the peaceful nuclear reactor in the UAE."

While welcoming the agreement, Australian Uranium Association CEO Michael Angwin told The Age newspaper that the deal was unlikely to make a large difference to Australia's uranium exports. "But what it does do is signal the world's nuclear industry is growing," he said.

Australia currently has 22 nuclear safeguards agreements worldwide governing potential sales to countries including the USA, Russia, China, Canada, Sweden, France and South Korea.

The UAE already has nuclear cooperation agreements in place with the USA, the UK, South Korea and France, plus a memorandum of understanding with Japan.

In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) selected a Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) to build four APR-1400 reactors. All four units planned for Barakah, close to the border with Saudi Arabia, should be in operation by 2020. The first concrete for the initial unit was poured in mid-July.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News