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UAE evaluates options for nuclear waste disposal

Underground storage, fuel leasing may be long-term options.

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February 8, 2011 1:58 by



The United Arab Emirates is looking at short, medium and long-term solutions for the disposal of used fuel as part of a planned nuclear energy project, an Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) spokesman said.

The UAE, the world’s third-largest oil exporter, plans to build four nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 5,600 megawatts in an effort to meet growing energy demand. The Gulf Arab state has set up an independent advisory group, the International Advisory Board (IAB), to oversee progress on its nuclear energy project. The group is chaired by Hans Blix, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Monday, the IAB released its first interim report, in which it said the country had not yet finalised its waste disposal option.

“The short and medium-term options are there,” a spokesman for ENEC told Reuters on Tuesday. The long-term strategy is only being developed as we speak.”

For the short term, which covers 20-30 years, one solution that will be proposed to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation consists of a spent fuel pool, which will be above the ground and within the plant, the spokesman said.

“And because a nuclear power plant has very little spent fuel, it will take a long time to fill your storage space,” he added.

In late 2009, ENEC awarded a South Korean consortium a deal worth up to $40 billion to build and operate what could become the Arab world’s first nuclear energy complex.  A sparsely populated town called Bakra, in the west of the country and over 100 km (62 miles) from the Saudi border, was chosen in 2010 as the preferred site to build the nuclear power complex.

“The medium term will be storage in dry casks, made out of concrete above the ground, and medium term will be 70-100 years,” the spokesman said.

For the longer term beyond 100 years, the UAE is looking at all options available. “We’re planning for an underground depository; we’re looking at the options of fuel leasing as well,” he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Editing by Jane Baird)



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