What Iran Could Learn from Abu Dhabi’s First Nuclear Plant

aladdin's lamp nuclear iran, abu dhabi
Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant has been under suspicion for decades, rightly or wrongly.

So as not to arouse alarm, the United Arab Emirates’ civil nuclear plan has been taking the opposite approach of complete transparency. The UAE has forgone any plans to enrich or reprocess uranium itself, so as to allay any cause for suspicion or concerns about nuclear proliferation. Abu Dhabi engaged an independent regulator, and an international advisory board that includes Hans Blix – famous for the globally backed hunt for Iraq’s nukes.

And Abu Dhabi’s first ever nuclear power plant was just permitted this month.

The chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, told the National “If I was going to write a template on how to begin a new nuclear programme and to get the world behind you instead of against you, I would say Abu Dhabi is doing it exactly the right way. It’s best practice multiplied by three.”

Permission for the first reactor in the UAE was given this month for site preparation to begin. Ultimately this will be one of four reactors planned at Braka in Abu Dhabi’s Al Gharbia region.

With 85 percent of its residents saying nuclear power is important for the country – much higher support than in the U.S. or Europe – and a fairly straightforward approval process, Abu Dhabi has a shot at serious carbon footprint reduction by including nuclear in its already climate-friendly energy planning that includes solar and wind power.

The key to a successful nuclear energy program is building responsible regulatory systems. Even in an advanced industrial democracy such as Japan, the Japanese “nuclear village” featured far too cosy a relationship between the industry and those overseeing it.

Similarly, the anti-nuke feeling in the U.S. also springs from corruption within its nuclear regulatory agency which has been criticized as “too close” to the industry it is supposed to regulate.

Yet, nuclear power has the potential to be successful in reducing carbon emissions, while operating responsibly just like solar or wind power. It just needs very strict safety oversight. Emploing Hans Blix should do it!

Other Middle East countries are considering nuclear power. Saudi Arabia plans to invest more than US$100 billion on 16 nuclear reactors over the next two decades. Saudis Needs to Go Nuclear by 2020 to Keep Everyone Happy at Home.

Jordan is headed there too: Jordan Pushes On With Its Nuclear Plans. And Egypt.

Middle Eastern countries have a long road ahead in developing the nuclear expertise needed to run the plants. Worldwide, as nuclear fell out of favor after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents, student stopped graduating in nuclear engineering. Even in the U.S. there is a lack of current new nuclear graduates.

And with the Fukushima disaster, last year, that feeling has not abated. Kuwait has abandoned its nuclear plans in the aftermath. Nuclear training first dropped worldwide in the 1980s, as the first of these disasters began.

But still, new nuclear engineers can be trained and imported. Water is a tougher problem.

Nuclear plants are notorious for having to be shut down when water gets scarce during droughts and heat waves in France and Australia, and in the US when the Tennessee river clocked in at an astounding 90 degrees. Water scarcity is the biggest problem facing all nuclear plans, and in no place is that a bigger issue than in the Middle East.

Water, required for cooling and in emergencies, may not be easily available, in particular in Jordan with its short coastline.

Also, the region will have to add more interconnections to allow countries to share electricity in the event of unplanned shutdowns.

But there is an upside too. Nuclear power, with its copious quantities of waste heat, has been used in desalination. This has been successfully demonstrated in Japan, India and Kazakhstan.

Read more on Iran nuclear:
The Middle East Nuclear Power Boom Without Toxic Waste
Greenpeace Raises More Questions Over Jordan’s Nuclear Plans
Nuclear Power Continues World Dependence on Middle East Oil

Image of Aladdin’s lamp from Shutterstock

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