The UAE and Australia moved their relationship up to a more strategic level this week when the two countries agreed that Australia would provide the UAE with uranium as fuel for the UAE’s future nuclear power plants.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the agreement with Bob Carr, Australian Foreign Minister, which defines the conditions under which the uranium will be supplied once Al Baraka power station is up and running in Abu Dhabi.

As Shaikh Abdullah put it, the two countries have strong bilateral ties and this agreement crowns the relationship. Australia has about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves, and is the largest supplier of uranium fuel in the world.

The agreement between the two governments defines the structures under which a commercial arrangement can be reached between the supplying company and the UAE power company. One key aspect which is necessary before commercial implementation is a clear understanding of who will handle the nuclear waste.

This will not be an issue for some decades as the fuel takes many years to be used up, but it will need to be disposed off properly, particularly since, after the UAE refused to use its right to enrich uranium on its own, much of the world is looking to the UAE as a great example of how to set up nuclear power stations without the suspicion of fostering nuclear weapons.