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Australia keen to strengthen UAE relations through nuclear deal

UAE in talks with France and Russia on nuclear waste option

  • By Shehab Al Makahleh Staff Reporter
  • Published: 16:02 January 16, 2013
  • Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE-Australia bilateral relations are now much stronger, cemented by the nuclear deal reached last July, said Richard Marles, Australian parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and parliamentary secretary for public island affairs.

Marles, on a visit to the World Future Energy Summit, told the Gulf News following his speech to the Australian Business Council and the Australian Business Community, that the UAE “is a hub for businesses, for defence and foreign policy”.

According to the agreement, Australia will provide the UAE with uranium fuel once nuclear plants — which will cost about Dh73.44 billion ($20 billion) — are operational by 2017. The 15-year-deal covers uranium supply for four nuclear units.

Marles said that the UAE nuclear cooperation agreement signed in July 2012, has given an impetus to the nuclear market and energy.

“The agreement with the UAE for nuclear cooperation brought considerable and remarkable momentum to uranium industry as the world’s confidence in nuclear energy was shaken since Fukushima incident in 2011,” said Marles, adding that his country would be a main supplier for the four UAE nuclear plants.

“With regard to the four plants, in the UAE, the country is in need of 700-800 tonnes of uranium to run its reactors by 2020,” he said.

The Australian official pointed out that the UAE is going to require 800 tonnes of Uranium to operate its four reactors by 2020. We export 7,000 tons a year, this accounts for more than 10 per cent of our exports and if we even get one-third of those this will give a boost to our industry,” he said

According to the agreement, Australia, which is the biggest producer of uranium (fuel) as the country holds about 40 per cent of the world’s known uranium reserves, will provide the UAE with uranium fuel once nuclear plants are in operation by 2017.

A UAE official in the field of nuclear energy had told the Gulf News that there are talks with the Russians and the French on the nuclear waste as there were options to rid of the nuclear waste by dumping it, exporting it or recycling.

“We have received some proposals from France and Russia in this regard and we are considering them,” the official said.

The agreement sets out conditions under which nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components and technology can be transferred between Australia and the UAE for peaceful non-explosive purposes.

The agreement includes a series of provisions to ensure proper protections against wrongful use of nuclear material or related equipment which include articles from 5-9, setting the guidelines.

The agreement commits both parties to take all necessary measures to ensure that nuclear safety and radioactive waste management is consistent with all relevant international legal obligations: requires both parties to take all necessary measures to ensure adequate physical protection of nuclear material and other equipment under the agreement; specifically prohibits the UAE transferring nuclear material subject to the agreement to any third party without the prior written consent of the Australian government; provides that nuclear material subject to the agreement will not be enriched in the isotope uranium 235 or reprocessed within the UAE and explicitly limits the use of any material under the Agreement to peaceful purposes and prohibits their use for the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the UAE has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Australia, which holds about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves, and making the country the biggest producer of uranium fuel in the world.

In 2011, Australia started negotiations to sell uranium to the UAE on condition that it is only used for peaceful power generation.

The UAE-Russian Federation peaceful nuclear energy agreement, which was signed on Monday at the foreign ministry is deemed a legal framework for supplying nuclear fuel services to the UAE and in line with the country’s policy on the development of a national nuclear energy programme.

According to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), Abu Dhabi targets 7 per cent renewable energy electric generation capacity by 2020 (1500 MW) while Dubai’s target is 5 per cent renewable energy by 2030 (1000 MW).

France, the UK, US, South Korea, Australia and Russia have signed nuclear co-operation agreements with the UAE. Those agreements vary from the foundation for technology and knowledge transfer in addition to opening supply routes for nuclear fuel.

Australia has 22 nuclear safeguard agreements covering 39 countries, plus Taiwan, including US, Russia, Korea, UK, Canada, Sweden, France, Philippines, Japan, Switzerland, Egypt, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina and China.

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