Qatar: UAE nuclear plant threat to Gulf stability, environment

In a letter to the IAEA, Qatar urges the Vienna-based organisation to create a framework for regional nuclear security.

    The Barakah nuclear power plant is expected to begin operations by 2020 [File: Arun Girija/AP Photo]
    The Barakah nuclear power plant is expected to begin operations by 2020 [File: Arun Girija/AP Photo]

    Qatar has said a nuclear plant under construction in the UAE poses a serious threat to regional stability and the environment.

    In a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), seen by the Reuters news agency on Wednesday, Qatar also called the Vienna-based organisation to create a framework for nuclear security in the Gulf.

    Relations between Qatar and its neighbour are already strained after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with the government in Doha in June 2017. The breach came over allegations that Qatar supports "terrorism", a charge the country denies.

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    In its letter, Qatar said that a radioactive plume from an accidental discharge could reach its capital in five to 13 hours and a radiation leak would have a devastating effect on the region's water supply because of its reliance on desalination plants.

    The contested Barakah nuclear power plant is located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. 

    "Qatar believes that the lack of any international cooperation with neighbouring states regarding disaster planning, health and safety and the protection of the environment pose a serious threat to the stability of the region and its environment," said the letter from Qatar's foreign affairs ministry to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

    Qatar also said that the technology is relatively untested as there is only one other commercial reactor of this type in operation, in South Korea.

    The UAE said on Wednesday that its nuclear energy programme conforms to IAEA standards and international best practices.

    "The United Arab Emirates ... adheres to its commitment to the highest standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation," Hamad al-Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA, said in a statement to Reuters.

    He added that the Barakah plant, which was originally set to come online in 2017, was now expected to begin operations by 2020.

    Qatar said regional concerns about nuclear safety will be amplified when the Saudi Arabian civil nuclear programme is launched. 

    The kingdom is considering building 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity by 2032, the equivalent of about 17 reactors, making it one of the biggest projects globally.

    There was no immediate comment by the IAEA.

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency