Australia and the United Arab Emirates have opened discussions on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and will soon begin negotiations on a bilateral safeguards agreement.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd was received yesterday by his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on the sidelines of the 118th GCC Ministerial Council, and the First Joint Ministerial Meeting on GCC-Australia Strategic Dialogue.
Mr Rudd announced the opening of discussions at a Business Breakfast held this morning in Abu Dhabi and attended by key members of the UAE-based Australian business community and local officials.
Sheikh Abdullah told the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) “a cooperation agreement between the UAE and Australia will certainly provide an opportunity to build synergies between government and commercial organisations in the two countries.”
“Initiating talks on the agreement is a significant step that reflects strong relations between the two countries and is aligned with the UAE policy for development of a peaceful nuclear energy programme in partnership with the governments and firms of responsible nations,” Sheikh Abdullah continued.
In a statement released by the Foreign Affairs ministry, Mr Rudd said “the UAE is planning for civil nuclear power generation to be operational by 2017 as an additional source of electricity to meet future demand.”
The Wall Street Journal says these plans centre around a US$20 billion nuclear power plant to be built in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Rudd continued, “the UAE is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has an Additional Protocol on strengthened safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency. A bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia is a further strict non-proliferation condition that Australia requires for supplying uranium,” said Mr Rudd.
He says that with a safeguards agreement in place, the UAE’s forecasted annual electricity requirement of more than 40,000 Megawatts by 2020 would open up an important additional market for Australian uranium producers.
Mr Rudd said the UAE is a Australia’s largest merchandise trading partner in the Middle East, with two-way trade for 2009-2010 valued at more than A$4.2 billion.