Meet the chief tasked to tell UAE’s nuclear story

Rashid Al Falahi, chief storytelling officer of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, believes that storytelling and transparency should be an industry priority

By Michal Michelle Divon

Published: Thu 13 May 2021, 11:35 PM

In an era where consumers are bombarded with information and data, stories are often what will make an impact and ultimately stick, believes Rashid Al Falahi, the newly appointed chief storytelling officer of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (NAFR).

When the UAE began constructing the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, it realised that transparency was essential to ensure both domestic and international support. The UAE’s interest in a peaceful nuclear power plant was made clear and shared across official channels. Motivated by the need to develop additional sources of electricity and meet future demands, the narrative had to reflect their intentions for a peaceful use of nuclear technology.

“We in the UAE, from the very beginning, were aware of the issues raised by nuclear power with respect to health, safety and environment. The decisions leading to a potential development of a nuclear power plant was grounded in the acceptance of the citizens,” says Al Falahi.

In that regard, the government of the UAE released an in-depth policy paper to the public, addressing how the development of a nuclear energy facility would be pursued safely, securely and peacefully.

“The decision to make use of nuclear energy was only made after an excessive study into the country’s future energy needs. The study predicted that demand for energy was going to increase by nine per cent yearly, and when that was discussed almost a decade ago, the demand for energy doubled,” says Al Falahi.

At 34, the Dubai native serves as the Government Affairs Manager and Acting International Cooperation Manager at the FANR. He is also the emergency communication team leader, as well as an advisor on government-related subjects to the senior management at the FANR. He is currently pursuing a PhD in crises communication.

Al Falahi has spent years studying the science of storytelling and its growing importance. He believes that storytelling and transparency should be an industry priority.

Human beings have used storytelling for centuries, and it’s important to recognise the power that stories have in persuading, influencing, and motivating people to action, believes Al Falahi.

“The nuclear jargon and the nature of the nuclear business make it difficult to convey certain messages because of technical words that we usually use; hence, through the power of narratives, the power of storytelling, we can have a better reach to our target audience,” says Al Falahi.

Last month, the UAE made history when the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi began commercial operations. The Barakah plant is the first nuclear power station in the Arab world and part of the oil-producing state’s efforts to diversify its energy sources.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said the unit, which is operated by Nawah Energy Company, is the single largest electricity generator in the UAE and is leading the largest decarbonisation effort of any industry in the country to date.

When completed, Barakah, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corp, will have four reactors with 5,600 megawatts of total capacity — equivalent to around 25 per cent of the UAE’s peak demand.

Adding a chief storytelling officer position is a significant step for the FANR, and the UAE in general, with more organisations now expressing interest to follow suit.

“I’ve received many calls from different organisations, asking about the position…and how it can be incorporated into their structure,” says Al Falahi.

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