Going Nuclear

The Drew International Seminar at the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation in Abu Dhabi.

The Drew International Seminar got a head start on us, but Drew Magazine is now in sunny, blazing hot Abu Dhabi. While the students are getting together their impressions from the beginning of the trip for you, I’ll jump in with the latest, writing as I listen to the wail of the afternoon call to prayer.

On Thursday, May 27, everyone piled into silver taxis (not the white-and-gold ones, which we were warned against taking) and sped off for back-to-back boardroom visits at the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC).

Aware that its oil reserves and natural gas from Qatar will not keep up with current demand for electricity, the United Arab Emirates have tied their future to nuclear energy. It’s an incredibly new initiative. Our group heard first from FANR, the people tasked with setting safety and security standards, which got its start in September 2009. And then from ENEC, launched in December 2009, which will build four nuclear reactors near Abu Dhabi, the first scheduled to start producing electricity in 2017.

Professor Nora Colton talks to Will Brackett between boardroom visits.

Students asked probing questions, such as the degree of interest the UAE has in renewable energy sources, such as solar power, and about plans for the disposal of radioactive waste. The staff who gave the presentations, a mix of amazingly young Emiratis and expats from the United States, Australia and Sweden, acknowledged that while there is interest in renewable energy sources, demand is expected to outstrip their capacity. And plans for waste disposal sound, at this stage, wholly undetermined.—Renée Olson, Editor, Drew Magazine

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