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UAE Nuclear Ambitions Have Washington's Blessings

Friday, Oct. 30, 2009

The U.S.-UAE 123 Agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is set to come into force now that the mandatory 90-day period of congressional review has passed. The deal has the firm backing of the Obama administration, which sees it as a model for countries looking to introduce nuclear energy to their territories. For the UAE, the deal represents a reaffirmation of its close ties to the West as well as a gateway to developing a source of energy that, for a number of reasons, makes sense for the Emirates. The third-party beneficiary of the agreement, of course, is France, with its mature nuclear industry and supplier status.

At first glance, nuclear energy for a desert sheikhdom awash in oil and gas resources may seem incongruous. However, there are actually compelling reasons why the UAE has opted for this path -- not least being access to potable water. Nuclear power is the most effective means of desalinating water on a large scale. Not surprisingly, the UAE has signed agreements with U.S.-based Thorium Power Ltd., thereby indicating a desire for thorium-fueled high-temperature reactors that are optimized for both desalination purposes and hydrogen production. (The path to a hydrogen economy also goes through nuclear power.) ...

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