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IRENA Will Not Support Nuclear Energy, Says Chief

Filed on July 31, 2009

DUBAI The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) will not back programmes to develop nuclear energy due to the waste it produces and the risks it presents, its top official said on Wednesday.

Newly-created IRENA’s headquarters will be in the UAE, where the government wants to develop a $40 billion nuclear energy programme.

“IRENA will not support nuclear energy programmes because it’s a long complicated process, it produces waste and is relatively risky,” Helene Pelosse, director-general of IRENA, told Reuters in a telephone interview from the French Alps.

IRENA, founded in January and now with 136 member countries, is aimed at supporting global development of renewable energy.

The governments of Gulf Arab countries have all expressed interest in developing nuclear power, leading to concern among analysts that a regional arms race would develop with Iran.

“Renewable energy is a better alternative and a faster, less expensive alternative, especially with countries blessed with so much sun for solar plants,” Pelosse said.

Last month, members of IRENA voted for the headquarters of the agency to be located in Abu Dhabi. “I think being in the UAE is a strong positive symbol and message to the world that even oil producing nations are looking at renewable energy,” Pelosse said.

The UAE and its Gulf oil-exporting neighbours are among the highest per capita carbon dioxide emitters in the world, according to statistics from the United Nations Development Programme.

The UAE is third on the list, after Qatar and Kuwait.

“The UAE is aware of its large carbon footprint and is trying to improve on that,” she said.

The UAE has set itself a target of producing 7 per cent of its power from renewables by 2020.

The government of Abu Dhabi has committed $16 billion to an initiative to produce renewable and sustainable energy, known as Masdar.

The initiative includes a plan to develop a green town in the desert, called Masdar City.

IRENA’s headquarters would be in Masdar City and should be built by 2011, Pelosse said. Until then, it would be based in Abu Dhabi.

To jump start the agency’s operations, the UAE said it would inject $136 million in funding by 2015.

“We are also looking at financing support from other oil producing nations in the region in addition to financial agencies such as the World Bank,” said Pelosse. — Reuters

Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and the world’s biggest oil exporter, is not a member of IRENA. Pelosse declined to comment on the reasons why the kingdom has not joined.

“I think that all oil producers don’t have any choice,” she said. “They have to look into renewable energy options because the oil will run out.” —

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