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IAEA Expert Affirms Consistency of UAE Nuclear Power Programme with the Milestones Approach 

The close partnership between the UAE and the IAEA has helped the country develop a national nuclear infrastructure in line with the Agency’s Milestones Approach. Currently, the UAE has reached the last phase, Milestone 3, with its three nuclear reactors under construction. Ms. Anne Starz, Acting Section Head for Nuclear Infrastructure Development of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy, tells us more about the IAEA support to the UAE nuclear power programme, including: tools made available by the Agency to support the national nuclear infrastructure development, the Agency’s view on the country’s approach and elements of success towards the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

With no existing nuclear expertise at the time of its decision to pursue nuclear energy, the UAE government has set itself a challenge to deploy a national programme in line with international standards, especially in such a complex field. What is the IAEA’s assessment today of the UAE’s nuclear power infrastructure as a nuclear newcomer and the current progress made on construction of its first Nuclear Power Plant?


The UAE has been cooperating closely with the IAEA on developing a national nuclear power programme and has generally followed IAEA guidance, as documented in the IAEA publication "Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power" (IAEA Nuclear Energy Series NG-G-3.1).


This holistic approach includes three phases (decide-prepare-construct) and three milestones (hence the name) to be achieved by a country in developing its nuclear infrastructure, while considering 19 infrastructure issues to be addressed in each phase, for example national position, nuclear safety, legislative and regulatory frameworks, human resource development, stakeholder involvement and others.


In January 2011, the UAE hosted an IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission. An INIR mission is a holistic review of a country’s nuclear power programme conducted by a team of IAEA and international experts. This mission was held successfully and found that the status of infrastructure was in good shape for that stage of the nuclear power development.


Between 2011 and now, several other IAEA review services have supported the UAE’s programme, such as the Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), the Emergency Preparedness Review Service (EPREV), an IAEA Safeguards Advisory Service Mission (ISSAS), and others with similar results.



The IAEA plays an important role in assisting Member States that are starting nuclear power programmes, such as the UAE. What are the areas in which the IAEA can provide assistance to the UAE in developing/advancing its national nuclear infrastructure, especially as the UAE moves to the Operation and Commissioning phase?


As I said earlier, the UAE nuclear power programme is consistent with the Milestones approach and has close cooperation with the IAEA.


On average, there are more than 30 activities between the IAEA and the UAE per year.


Currently, as the UAE prepares for commissioning, the IAEA is providing support in particular on the readiness of the operating organization, regulatory body, and emergency preparedness organization as well as others for the operation of the nuclear power plant.


Some of the most important activities are peer review services, which bring together international experts to discuss aspects of a country’s nuclear programme and make recommendations for further progress. The UAE has agreed to pilot an INIR mission, scheduled for 2016, as a last review of the UAE’s nuclear infrastructure development and the readiness for operation, before the first reactor at the Barakah site will be commissioned.



Have there been any new tools that the IAEA has used for the first time on the UAE's nuclear power project and could the UAE’s approach be recommended to other countries embarking on a nuclear power programme for the first time?


It is fair to say that the IAEA has also benefited greatly from this cooperation; as the UAE is the first country in 28 years to start construction on a first nuclear power plant, we have worked closely with the UAE to understand how countries starting programmes today are responding to different challenges than in the past.

The UAE is at the leading edge of these “nuclear newcomers” and has been actively sharing its experiences with the IAEA and the international community.


As the IAEA developed or adapted its services and guidance to respond to the needs of countries starting nuclear power programmes, the UAE has been one of the first to use these services and tools, as the “newcomer” with the most advanced NPP project.


One way the UAE has demonstrated its leadership is by making the results of its INIR mission public.


The INIR Mission in 2011 identified several areas where the UAE approach achieved good practices for other countries starting nuclear power programmes to consider. These good practices include, for example, cooperation without compromising the independence between the regulatory bodies and utility, human resource development, a well-structured integrated management system, and a strong safety culture.


The UAE has also implemented an extensive stakeholder involvement programme that provides transparency and confidence for the general public.



Your office interacts with many newcomer countries. What are your impressions surrounding the UAE experience and where/how can the UAE experience support the IAEA and other Member States?  


The IAEA has been supporting the UAE in building its nuclear infrastructure, but the IAEA has also being supported by the UAE. Experts from the UAE are participating in many IAEA technical meetings and workshops where they share valuable information and experiences with other Member States.


The UAE and the Agency are also cooperating on preparing a Case Study document, to be published by the IAEA, on the UAE experience in building its national nuclear infrastructure.


This case study will explain the approaches adapted by the UAE to be successful in developing a safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programme.



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



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8 May 2015