The UAE has called on all countries in the region to make a positive commitment to the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
Calling upon all countries in the region to join the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the UAE reminded them of their international obligations to fully comply with comprehensive safeguards.
Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a statement to the 56th Session of the IAEA General Conference, reiterated the UAE’s commitment to working with the agency towards the enhancement of nuclear safety, security and safeguards worldwide, while promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and making use of the agency’s central role in this regard.
“In light of the natural disaster that took place in 2011, resulting in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the UAE places utmost emphasis on nuclear safety and security as we take stern and progressive steps towards the development of a peaceful nuclear energy programme,” Al Kaabi said.
“Since 2008, the UAE has embarked on a nuclear power programme to meet the growing domestic demand for electricity. My country remains of the view that peaceful nuclear energy would contribute significantly to the future energy mix in the UAE and globally. All advancements of the nuclear programme in the UAE are in accordance with the national nuclear policy of 2008, which commits to using nuclear energy in abidance with the highest standards of safety and security, as well as with endorsed principles of complete transparency, commitment to the highest standards of non-proliferation, and full cooperation with the IAEA,” he added.
Al Kaabi said the UAE started earlier this summer the construction of the Unit One of its Barakah nuclear power plant, making it the first country among nuclear new-comers to start the construction of a nuclear power plant in 27 years.
The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation had taken into consideration lessons learned from the Fukushima accident, and included additional measures that enhanced features to safeguard the plant from natural calamities and other disasters.
The UAE has adapted the IAEA’s integrated guidance for the development of new nuclear energy programmes. “We continue to work closely with the IAEA and international partners to establish a successful and sustainable peaceful nuclear energy programme.”
Al Kaabi said since the UAE pursues a transparent approach, it immensely benefited from various comprehensive review services provided by the IAEA. In addition to the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission, which was conducted in 2011, UAE requested another review mission, the Integrated Regulatory Review Service Mission (IRRS).
The outcomes of of the reviews were very positive, with no major gaps identified, Al Kaabi said, quoting the IAEA: “The mission found that the country understands the long-term commitments and responsibilities of nuclear power and is implementing its programme in line with the IAEA ‘Milestones’ approach.”
It was the first time that an IRRS Mission was held at such an early stage in a country embarking on a nuclear programme. This highlights the advancement of the UAE as a model for nuclear new-comers, the representative said.
Al Kaabi said the UAE has also joined the protocol to amend the Vienna convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage as well as the Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention, further demonstrating the country’s responsible approach.
The UAE is keen on sharing its experience with other member states embarking on a nuclear power programme by providing feedback on its best practices, guiding principles, lessons learned and challenges.
“We believe that IAEA safeguards are credible means to assure that nuclear material and facilities are being used exclusively for peaceful purposes. They have, however, experienced a challenge with regards to verification during the last decade, some of these challenges continue. These challenges should be addressed to provide full assurance in relation to only the declared activities but also potentially non-declared ones,” Al Kaabi said.
The UAE called on countries, in which the safeguards implementation remained under question, to fully cooperate with the IAEA in fulfilling their international obligations, with an objective to addressing all outstanding concerns and to demonstrate their will to exclude potential military dimension to their programme.