Abu Dhabi:Australia will provide the UAE with uranium fuel once the Dh73.5 billion ($20 billion) UAE nuclear plants are operational by 2017. The 15-year-deal covers uranium supply for four nuclear units.

The UAE has signed the nuclear co-operation agreement with Australia, which holds about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves.

Australia is the biggest producer of uranium fuel in the world.

On signing the agreement, Bob Carr, Australian Foreign Minister said the agreement represents strong relationships between the two countries.

In a joint press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, Carr said: “It is a commitment by the Australian government to set up conditions under which nuclear material will be supplied to the UAE.

“It sets up a framework under which we will become a reliable supplier of uranium to the UAE.”

“We are pleased today to announce our readiness to provide the UAE with the uranium for their peaceful plants,” added the Australian minister.

Shaikh Abdullah said: “We have very strong bilateral ties with Australia crowned with the signing of this agreement. For the past few years, we started looking for alternative, sustainable and clean energy sources. This included nuclear power.”

“The nuclear plants are very significant for the UAE, the region and the world for their peaceful uses. The UAE is well placed to develop a peaceful nuclear energy.

“This is not a commercial agreement but rather it is between two governments. It is just outlining the nature of the relationship between the two countries in this sector. It is up to future work between importers and exporters to reach the suitable prices and quantities,” Shaikh Abdullah stressed.

Carr lauded the policy adopted by the UAE in the field of renewable energy and its adherence to international standards in the implementation of its peaceful nuclear energy programme.

The UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FNAR), on July 18, granted the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) a licence to construct a multi-billion dollar project for two nuclear power reactor units (1 and 2) at its proposed Barakah site in the Western Region of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

By 2020, demand for power will grow threefold on current levels. This justifies turning to nuclear energy to generate power to meet the expected growth in demand.

Hamad Al Ka’abi, UAE permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and board member of FANR, told Gulf News earlier: “With regard to nuclear waste, we are currently studying various scenarios and have not yet decided the option.”