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Experts Meet in Abu Dhabi to Discuss the Nuclear Future in the Middle East

American Academy Sponsors International Conference to Prepare for “A More Nuclear World”

12/22/2009

Press Release

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Government officials and policy experts from 18 countries gathered here December 13-15 for an off-the-record meeting to discuss the political, technical, and nonproliferation considerations related to the global expansion of nuclear energy. The three-day meeting on Nuclear Power in the Middle East was organized by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as part of its project on the Global Nuclear Future.

There are 439 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries today with another 45 under construction and the number of nuclear facilities and nations with civilian nuclear programs is expected to grow dramatically, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). More than a dozen nations in the Middle East are pursing nuclear programs, including the United Arab Emirates, which last week formalized a cooperative agreement with the United States for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The goal of the American Academy forum, and of the larger initiative on the Global Nuclear Future, is to identify, refine, and promote measures that will limit the safety, security, and proliferation risks associated with the anticipated global “nuclear renaissance.”

“We cannot assume that as nuclear energy spreads to more countries, a desirable nuclear order will arise spontaneously or automatically,” said Steven Miller of Harvard University, co-organizer of the conference and co-leader of the Academy’s larger initiative.

“It will be important for all aspiring nuclear states to have an understanding and knowledge of the evolving non-proliferation regime,” added Mohamed Shaker, conference co-organizer and former Egyptian diplomat. “Close cooperation and coordination is needed among new nuclear nations.” Participants in the Abu Dhabi meeting engaged in frank discussion about a number of complex issues, including:

  • Operational safety of new nuclear facilities;
  • Protecting reactors from terrorist attacks, sabotage, and other security breaches;
  • Developing the human technical resources necessary to support new nuclear programs;
  • Ensuring the transparency of civilian nuclear power programs;
  • Economic viability of national nuclear construction initiatives;
  • Ways to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime, including what some in nuclear-aspiring states perceive to be an inconsistent application of protocols and obligations by nuclear nations;
  • The safe long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel, including opportunities for regional cooperation on waste repositories.


“It is fitting that the meeting take place in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the future site of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant,” said Academy Chief Executive Officer Leslie Berlowitz. She noted that the UAE’s commitment to complete operational transparency of its nuclear program and adherence to the highest standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation have been praised as a global model. Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA, briefed the conference on his country’s nuclear program and the U.S. Ambassador to the UAE, Richard Olson, addressed the group on the two nations’ bilateral nuclear cooperation pact.

Conference participants included individuals with a diverse range of expertise and experience in nuclear program development, regulation, and nonproliferation and disarmament efforts. They discussed bolstering what is widely viewed as a fragile international nonproliferation regime. In May 2010, the 190 member states that are party to the international convention governing such issues, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), will meet in Vienna for a once-every-five-year Review Conference. Participants in the Academy meeting explored common ground for strengthening key provisions of the United Nations-sanctioned NPT.

For a summary of the Academy's Abu Dhabi meeting, visit abudhabiReport.pdf.

The Academy will sponsor a parallel meeting in Southeast Asia in 2010, at which the issues will be examined from that region’s perspective. The Academy’s project on the Global Nuclear Future also includes expert study groups to explore practical approaches for improving the physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials; engagement with nuclear plant builders and operators; efforts to develop policies and proposals for new cooperative arrangements to manage the fuel cycle; and explorations of ways to advance constructive dialog at the upcoming NPT Review Conference.

This work also includes a two-volume issue of the Academy’s journal Dædalus on nuclear energy and nonproliferation; the first was published in November 2009 and the second will appear in January 2010. In addition to Miller, the project on the Global Nuclear Future is co-directed by Scott Sagan of Stanford University, in collaboration with Robert Rosner of the University of Chicago and former Director of Argonne National Laboratory.

Participants in the Abu Dhabi meeting included ambassadors and other senior officials from the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, IAEA, League of Arab States, and various national governments. Delegates came from Algeria, Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Norway, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world. (www.amacad.org)

 

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