Former UN weapons inspector has new role with civilian nuclear agency
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it hired Hans Blix (right) to head up a nine-member board of nuclear energy experts to monitor the nation’s development of a massive civilian nuclear energy program. In December the UAE awarded a $20 billion contract for construction of four 1,400 MW nuclear reactors to Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO).
Blix served as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for 16 years from 1982-1998. He led the UN Security Council’s disarmament commission for Iraq.
The first meeting of the board was held Feb 23 in Abu Dhabi. The session was also attended by UAE agencies responsible for developing the reactors and for regulatory control of safety and nuclear materials. [See list below of members of the board headed by Blix.]
The UAE has won backing from the U.S. and other countries for its nuclear program with guarantees that it will not seek to develop its own uranium enrichment capabilities or fuel reprocessing. The nuclear fuel contracts for the new reactors haven’t been awarded yet, but Areva, which lost out on the main contract, could be in line to supply and reprocess the fuel for the conventional light water reactors to be built by KEPCO.
U.S. Energy Sec. Chu pledges cooperation with UAE
As part of a trip to strengthen partnerships in the Middle East, on Feb 23 U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu (right) signed an agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash.* [profile and photo below].
The agreement will enhance cooperation on civil nuclear energy and nonproliferation and facilitate joint training, exchanges, and seminars in nuclear safeguards and nuclear management systems.
The training programs will complement Emirati capacity on safety, security and nonproliferation, while reinforcing U.S. support for a major regional ally.
"This Arrangement is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to peaceful nuclear power," said Secretary Chu. "We welcome this collaboration with the UAE to reduce carbon pollution through the development of clean sources of energy."
A spokesman for DOE noted that nuclear energy has a key role to play in a low-carbon future – helping satisfy the increasing demand for baseload electricity while reducing carbon emissions.
“The United States is engaging with countries around the world to enhance cooperation on nuclear energy, so countries can meet their energy needs while minimizing the risks of proliferation.”
Critics not happy with UAE’s development of nuclear energy
Greenpeace International was critical of the board and the UAE’s nuclear program. Jan Bernaek, a spokesman for the organization, told a UAE newspaper it did not approve of the UAE’s efforts to development nuclear energy. He said the $40 billion to be spent on the four reactors, fuel, and related grid infrastructure should be spent instead on solar and wind technology.
In an effort to emphasize the time it takes to build nuclear reactors, he said, “The opportunity [for renewables] could be developed in weeks or months.”
Greenpeace isn’t the only group critical it the UAE’s nuclear drive and what’s interesting is that one outspoken critic works for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) which has its headquarters offices in Masdar City in the UAE. It is the government’s showplace for solar, wind, and energy efficiency technologies.
Helene Pelosse, (left) a French government official who heads up IRENA, said in 2009 that her government background will not provide a preferred position for Areva or EDF in the development of nuclear energy technologies in the UAE. The two firms were partners in the French government’s bid for the contract won by KEPCO.
“Irena will not deal with nuclear energy, simply because it is not renewable,” she said in an interview. “Nuclear and renewable energy have nothing to do with each other.” NYT
“IRENA will not support nuclear energy programs because it’s a long, complicated process, it produces waste and is relatively risky.” Reuters
She also told Reuters that besides assisting its member states on how to best promote renewable energies nationally, “Irena will raise the awareness worldwide that a world powered by 100 percent renewables is possible.”
Both Greenpeace and IRENA appears to have unrealistic expectations about the speed at which renewable energy technologies can be developed and their ability to meet demand for baseload electricity.
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Members of the UAE nuclear energy advisory board
Hans Blix, Sweden
• Director general of the International Atomic Energy Authority from 1981 to 1997
• Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, a Stockholm-based organisation funded by the Swedish government
Jacques Bouchard, France
• Special adviser to the chairman of the French Commissariat L’Energie Atomique
KunMo Chung, South Korea
• Twice minister of science and technology in South Korea
Thomas Graham, US
• Executive chairman of Lightbridge Corporation, which holds patents on a thorium-based nuclear fuel. The firm is also a consultant to the UAE government on its nuclear energy program.
Takuya Hattori, Japan
• President of Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) and president of JAIF International Co-operation Centre
Lady (Barbara) Judge, UK
• Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority
Mujid Kazimi, US
• Professor of nuclear and mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Jukka Laaksonen, Finland
• Director general of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority
Sir John Rose, UK
• Chief executive of Rolls-Royce, which manufactures nuclear components
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* Anwar Muhammad Gargash [right] is a prominent businessman, scholar, and government official in the UAE. He gained international attention when, as chairman of the National Elections Committee, he oversaw the first elections held in in December 2006.
He is also the senior executive of one of the most important family business enterprises in the U.A.E., a respected academic, and an important figure on the cultural scene in Dubai. His education includes BA and MA degrees in political science at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a Ph.D. from Kings College, Cambridge University, in 1990.
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