The UAE has made amazing progress in moving from a country almost totally dependent on burning natural gas (some of which is imported) to provide domestic electricity to one where a rapidly growing portion of its electricity from 2017 onward will be produced in zero fossil fuel, no CO2 emission nuclear fission reactors.
In 2009, soon after the global financial crisis, the UAE continued with already laid plans to build four large nuclear units and chose a package offered by KEPCO that included four APR-1400 reactors to be built in rapid succession, with the first one entering commercial operation by 2017 and the final one starting up by 2020.
The package includes agreements for maintenance, spare parts, fuel, and knowledge transfer.
It was thus entirely appropriate, and perfect for the audience at the ANS 2015 annual meeting plenary session to include a speaker who could share some lessons learned from the UAE success in turning nuclear energy from an option to a soon-to-be-achieved reality.
David Scott — a man that former NRC Chairman Dale Klein described as “scary smart” and who self-effacingly calls himself “just an economist” — was one of the primary architects of the UAE nuclear program. Two of the successful features of the program are its provisions to recruit and train Emirates citizens and to recruit the skilled expatriates required to help the inexperienced country move expeditiously from a zero nuclear energy nation to become one whose annual production will place it near the middle of the pack in the list of countries operating nuclear power plants.
Scott began by describing the background and the study that took place well before any final decisions were made
Successful nuclear programs are based on long term, sustainable needs and a decision process about the choice to embrace nuclear energy that is rigorous.
I’m going to share a few of the ways that we thought about our decision process in the UAE and the way that they helped us in this process. Tom [Fanning] referenced one of these issues. He explained it better than I could.
The question of context – and it’s important for use to remember that energy in all of its forms has an appropriate and an inappropriate context.
There are some places where nuclear power is the right answer, but it’s not always the right answer. And by the same token there are some places where oil, or gas, or solar, or wind, or waste energy represent the right energy in the right location. But getting the right context is really the secret to getting a program that is successful.
And the art in finding context is looking at all of these characteristics. Not merely geographic and not merely technical but also considering social issues, financial issues the capabilities of industry and taking all of that context and launching a process to establish which form of energy would be most appropriate.
Scott continued with useful information about the way that the decisions were made, the people who were involved in decision making (he provided a useful definition of a decision maker as anyone who could halt the project or cause significant delays), and the way that conflicts were anticipated and resolved. He also showed us some pictures of the site both before construction and highlighting the impressive progress that has been made in the past few years.
You’ll enjoy his talk. It would be even better with the slides, so I’m trying to find a shareable copy.