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UAE-IAEA Technical Cooperation: Strengthening Nuclear Technology Transfer

In an interview with the UAE Permanent Mission, IAEA's Dr. Najat Mokhtar, Director for Technical Cooperation for Asia and the Pacific (TCAP), talks about the cooperation between the Agency and the UAE, as the country develops its nuclear energy programme and benefits from/or utilizes nuclear applications in other sectors as well to meet its national development goals. Dr. Najat Mokhtar is from Morocco. She has a Doctorate Degree in Diet and Nutrition from the University of Dijon, France, and a PhD Degree in Physiology and Nutrition from Laval University, Canada. Dr. Mokhtar completed her post-doctoral training at the Johns Hopkins University, USA, as a Fulbright Fellow. Before joining the Agency, Dr. Mokhtar was the Director of Sciences at the Hassan II Academy of Science & Technology in Morocco.  She led the Nutrition Section at the IAEA from August 2012 to October 2014, and served as Technical Officer from 2001 to 2007.

Cooperation between the UAE and the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Department has greatly expanded since 2008, when the country embarked on a nuclear energy programme. The Agency made available, through its Technical Cooperation Programme, the transfer of technology and expertise supporting the development of national infrastructure for the nuclear power project. From the IAEA's perspective, which outcomes have demonstrated the UAE’s successful cooperation with TC in this area?

 

In 2011, the UAE signed its first Country Programme Framework (CPF), which outlined the UAE national development needs that could be addressed using the Agency support in nuclear science and technology. It was clear that the introduction of nuclear power for electricity generation is the priority, and the successful and safe implementation of the nuclear energy programme is the main outline of technical cooperation between UAE and IAEA.

 

From then on, the UAE has remained focused on this priority, making maximum use of the opportunities offered under the Agency’s Technical Cooperation programme to address its national needs and priorities. Since 2008, around 260 international experts have been dispatched to the UAE to share their expertise. From this number, 70% were experts in the field of activities of Nuclear and Radiation Safety, Nuclear Security and General Atomic Energy Development. From these earlier years, the UAE remains a recipient of expertise.

 

However, in recent years, we are happy to note that experts from UAE are beginning to engage in missions to other countries within the region. We are also happy to note that in recent years, UAE has started to receive fellows and scientific visitors for Nuclear and Radiation Safety and Nuclear Security.

 

This, to us, is one of the major outcomes of our cooperation, where the recipient is now in the position to be the contributor of knowledge and expertise.

 

We would like to encourage UAE to continue sharing its expertise and experience, especially in this region, either through TC programmes, regionally or bilaterally.

 

 

In 2013, the UAE signed an Integrated Work Plan (IWP) with the IAEA’s TC Department, covering different areas of cooperation up to the operation of the country’s first nuclear power plant in 2017. How do you see the implementation of UAE’s IWP today?

 

 The Integrated Work Plan (IWP) is meant to support the implementation of the national nuclear power programme. It consolidates all technical assistance by the IAEA to the UAE’s nuclear power programme and the IAEA, through its Technical Cooperation (TC) programme and other mechanisms, is assisting the UAE in ensuring safe and secure infrastructure development.

 

 The IWP has proven to be of special importance as a key project management modality to facilitate an enhanced working relationship between the IAEA and the national organizations involved in the UAE’s nuclear power programme. The year 2014 showed effective implementation of planned activities that are being supported by the IAEA with the delivered assistance increase at three-fold compared to the previous year.

 

 We also see that UAE has transformed the IWP for Nuclear Power Programme into an operational framework for delivery of IAEA assistance, which includes almost all of UAE national programmes which had resulted in an efficient tool, to ensure the smooth delivery of technical cooperation activities. As of the end of June 2015, the implementation of the UAE national programme is on track at almost 60% (57.25%) and we expect that by the end of 2015, all the planned activities will be delivered to various stakeholders in the UAE.

 

Last month you visited the United Arab Emirates for the first time, to review the implementation of the TC programme in both the nuclear power and non-power sectors.  What were your impressions from this visit? Were you able to note the impact of these projects?

 

Yes, definitely. I am happy to see many bright and young Emiratis whom had benefited from the capacity building activities delivered through the TC Programme who are engaged, focused and utilizing the gained knowledge to contribute to the UAE programme, both in the nuclear power and the non-power sectors.

 

I also had the opportunity to close the Nuclear Energy Management School, which was organized by Khalifa University in cooperation with IAEA under TC regional project RAS/2/015 “Supporting the Introduction of Nuclear Power for Electricity Generation and Seawater Desalination”. This event was also supported by various other agencies in the United Arab Emirates; the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA), showing the importance placed by the UAE on Nuclear Knowledge Management. I was impressed to see many Emirati trainers in the school, which is the indicator of the sustainability of the UAE nuclear programme.

 

We visited the first national measurement centre for secondary standards for industrial and medical uses, supported by TC national project UAE/6/005 “Establishment of Secondary Standards Dosimetry Laboratory (SSDL) - Phase II”. This is a major achievement for UAE, as UAE will have the capability to carry out the calibration of radiation measuring instruments, personal and area dosimetry, and high dose dosimetry for industrial and medical applications in the country.

 

During our visit at the Dubai Hospital, which is one of the major hospitals involved in the TC Project UAE/9/011 “Strengthening the National Programme on Patient Radiation Safety and Dosimetry”,  we saw engaged health communities who are committed to improve radiation protection of patients in conformance with IAEA Safety Standards. I am happy to share that a recent expert mission had concluded that the diagnostic imaging medical physics in UAE is well-developed, competent and robust. We are happy to note that UAE had also taken the important next undertaking – the development of Diagnostic Reference Levels at a national level for optimizing the radiation dose delivered to patients in the course of diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedures as one of UAE national TC projects in TC Cycle 2016/2017.

 

 

You oversee the Agency’s Technical Cooperation programme for the Asia and Pacific region, helping its Member States address their specific needs. What has the main focus of the TC programme been in recent years for this region? How do you view the UAE’s engagement in this regional cooperation framework, especially within ARASIA and the GCC groups?

 

In recent years, the main focus of the TC programme in the region has been in the areas of Health and Nutrition and Safety and Security, with climate change becoming an emerging issue. Through the Practical Arrangement in support of the soil, water, crop and nutrition activities between the IAEA and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in the UAE, we look towards the UAE to lead in the discussions for possible areas of collaboration with the IAEA on a multidisciplinary integrated approach to tackle impacts of climate change and adaptation approaches.

 

The UAE has been providing significant support to the region, especially within ARASIA and GCC, in organizing and hosting numerous capacity building activities in various scientific and technical areas, and we look forward for this engagement to be enhanced in the future. We also look forward to UAE engagement beyond GCC and ARASIA, to our new Member States and the Least Developed Countries in the region by mobilizing its experts to provide guidance and support.

 

 

The UAE is eager to share its model and best practices in the use of nuclear applications and technology with other Member States. From your perspective, do you suggest new areas of work within the Agency’s TC programme where the UAE can provide support or share its experience?

 

In my opinion, the UAE’s strength lays in its focus to achieve its identified priorities, in its communication of these priorities to all the relevant stakeholders in the country, and in maximizing available resources which we know are always limited, to ensure the target is achieved on time.

 

We hope that in addition to sharing its technical expertise in utilizing nuclear applications and technologies with other Member States, the UAE can consider sharing its strong management and innovative approach with other new MSs in the region.

 

We are looking to the UAE to provide leadership in the region – in identifying regional developmental needs and with an agreed strategic plan to address those needs. We hope the UAE’s proven strategy and approach can be shared and replicated to benefit the region.

 

 

Overall, how would you describe the UAE’s engagement in the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme?

 

I would describe it as: focused on its development needs and clear in its management of resources. The Agency offers assistance in various areas and one may get side-tracked and would like to be involved in what the Agency had to offer. However, this may spread the available resources too thin. The UAE has always been focused and managed its resources based on its needs and participated in activities of relevance to its objectives, which resulted in the desired outcome within the targeted timeline.

 

 

 

Interview by Jennet Orayeva (jennet.orayeva@uae-iaea.org)

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30 June 2015