UAE Offers Alternative Nuclear Model to Iran

By Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones
July 22, 2010 Updated: July 22, 2010

[xtypo_dropcap]D[/xtypo_dropcap]UBAI, United Arab Emirates—Resolving the problem posed by Iran’s disputed nuclear program may have dominated the world agenda for the last three years.

However, little more than 373 miles away from Iran’s controversial reactor in Bushehr, another nuclear program is in its embryonic stages in the United Arab Emirates.

In the eyes of Western leaders however, the difference between the two is like night and day.

Indeed, the UAE’s civilian nuclear program, along with a similar project in Saudi Arabia, are being held up as models for the region.

"We have no concern with these countries developing conventional nuclear power," Luis Echavarri, director general of the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency, told Reuters.

"It is something every country has the right to have. Everybody should have the benefit of this energy.”

Echavarri’s sentiments were also echoed in Washington in May 2009, when President Barack Obama signed a ‘123’ cooperation pact with the UAE on nuclear power.

In a statement, he said that the UAE’s program “will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to the common defense and security.”

In contrast, Iran’s nuclear program—which Tehran also insists is for civilian purposes—has attracted worldwide criticism and suspicion that the country is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon.

A key difference is the decision by the UAE government to sacrifice the right to refine its own uranium and it has vowed not to reprocess spent fuel.

In so doing, it takes away the ability of the country to refine uranium to a higher degree where it can be used in a nuclear weapon.

“The UAE has made it impossible for any future UAE nuclear sector to produce weapons—usable nuclear material, thus severing the principal link between civil nuclear energy and nuclear weapons development,” says a statement on the website of the UAE Embassy in Washington.