The Strategic Context of the UAE’s Nuclear Project: A Model for the Region?
When the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued a policy statement in April 20081 indicating that the country was seriously considering developing a civilian nuclear-power program, it set the region and the world speculating as to the possible motivations behind such a move at that time. Since that date, the UAE has aggressively forged ahead, signing bilateral agreements with nuclear-supplier countries while increasing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in support of its bid to add nuclear power to its national energy portfolio. Most recently, the UAE has actually broken ground on its first and second reactors, in 2012 and 2013. At a time when the nuclear industry's "renaissance" has slowed or even faltered2 as a result of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, the global dynamics of the industry seemed to have little effect on the bold and confident pace of the UAE's nuclear plans. Worldwide, the future looks dimmer for nuclear than it did a few short years ago: Germany has pursued a policy of early decommissioning of its nuclear-power capacity;3 the Netherlands has adopted a "wait and see" attitude with respect to new nuclear plants;4 and new plants already under construction in China, France and Finland have experienced delays and cost overruns.5 Even in the face of these signs of a slowdown in the industry, however, the UAE continues to press ahead in its pursuit of nuclear power. Yet why should an oil-rich country like the UAE pursue a civilian nuclear power program, especially at a time when the future of nuclear-power around the world is uncertain?