Rio Tinto, Areva bag $3 billion UAE nuclear contracts

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uae nuclear reactor
Model nuclear reactor the UAE is constructing under a civilian nuclear energy programme. Photo – Yochi Dreazen/

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation has awarded fuel supply contracts worth about $3 billion to six international companies, including, Rio Tinto and Areva SA, to supply fuel for the country’s four planned nuclear reactors, Emirates Nuclear said in an e-mailed statement on late Wednesday.

Rosatom Corp.’s nuclear fuel trader OAO Techsnabexport, also known as Tenex, and Areva SA (AREVA) will supply uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services, according to the statement.

Emirates Nuclear said in a statement that it expects to return to the market at various times to ‘take advantage of favourable market conditions’ and to strengthen its security of supply position.

The UAE is aiming to be the first Gulf Arab nation to develop nuclear power, with the first of four 1,400 megawatt reactors scheduled to start operating in 2017. Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEP) was awarded the contract to build the plants in 2009. A joint venture between ENEC, as the local developer is known, and Korea Electric will operate the units under that deal.

The contracted fuel will enable the Barakah facility in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region to generate up to 450 million megawatt-hours for a period of 15 years starting in 2017, the statement said.

Abu Dhabi is investing billions of dollars in developing alternate sources of energy as part of plans to diversify away from hydrocarbons. Other regional nations, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in recent years also have declared their intent to pursue nuclear energy.

The UAE, unlike neighbouring Iran, has signed deals to not enrich uranium itself or to reprocess spent fuel. Hamad al-Kaabi, the Gulf state’s national representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said recently that the oil producer hasn’t yet finished a strategy for managing spent fuel from the reactors, but discussions about a national waste-strategy document are at an advanced stage.

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