The United Arab Emirates says it will establish a $100 million agency to look into developing nuclear energy to satisfy rising electricity demand in the Gulf oil exporter.
"Analysis of future domestic electricity demand ... has concluded that peaceful nuclear power generation represents an environmentally promising and commercially competitive option which could make a significant contribution to the UAE's economy and future energy security," a government statement carried by the official Wam news agency said.
"The UAE intends to establish a Nuclear Energy Implementation Organisation ... and is proceeding to evaluate the establishment of a peaceful nuclear programme."
Gulf Arab states -- among the world's largest oil and gas producers -- are considering nuclear power as they look to meet escalating domestic electricity demand without burning more fuel and eating into record export revenues.
The UAE signed a deal with France during President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit in January, agreeing to co-operate on a peaceful nuclear programme.
A memorandum on UAE nuclear energy policy issued after a cabinet meeting on Sunday, said the UAE would not enrich uranium itself but import nuclear fuel for its plants.
The statement said the UAE would work closely with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), ratify international non-proliferation and safety agreements and draw up a set of laws to govern the sector.
The statement promises to establish a nuclear regulatory authority and an international advisory board of nuclear experts as well as to seek assistance from other governments.
The UAE would offer joint ventures to foreign investors to build and operate potential power plants using only advanced third-generation light water reactors, it said.
France's Total, Suez, and state nuclear reactor maker Areva said in January they would develop two third-generation nuclear reactors in the UAE with a possible start date of 2016.
An IAEA official told Reuters at the time that he did not expect to see a nuclear plant running in the Gulf before 2020.
Like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and other Gulf oil exporters, the UAE needs nuclear energy to meet rapidly rising demands for electricity and desalinated water. (Reuters)
UAE to set up nuclear agency