Australia all set to supply uranium to the UAE

25 November 2015

Australia has finalized its nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates and will now supply uranium for use in the Middle Eastern country's developing nuclear power program. The announcement today, by the office of Australia's minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, followed news last week that the Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement had also been completed.

Australia-UAE agreement finalized - 460 (UAE IAEA)
The signing of the administrative agreement between Australia and the UAE
(Image: UAE Mission to IAEA)

UAE minister of foreign affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr signed a cooperation agreement in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the summer of 2012. The accord was seen as potentially leading to the supply of Australian uranium to fuel the UAE's forthcoming nuclear power reactor fleet.

The document set a framework for cooperation between the two countries in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and facilitates future private sector uranium sales to the UAE. The agreement also covers conditions for the supply of nuclear material, components related to nuclear technology and associated equipment for use in a domestic power industry. It explicitly prohibits the use of Australian nuclear material in weapons.

In September, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) received regulatory approval for the construction of two additional Korean-designed APR1400 pressurized water reactors - Barakah units 3 and 4. The licence from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) permits ENEC to construct the reactors, as well as to import equipment and technology exclusively for use in the project and to conduct activities related to the construction project, but not to operate the reactors. For that, the company must apply for a separate operating licence. According to FANR, ENEC is expected to apply next year for a licence to operate the first two Barakah units. Unit 1 is expected to come on line in 2017, with unit 2 following in 2018.

The prime ministers of India and Australia, Narendra Modi and Malcolm Turnbul, last week announced the completion of procedures necessary for a bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement between the two countries to enter into force, following a meeting held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey.

The Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement permits Australian companies to commence commercial uranium exports to India and provides the framework for "substantial new trade in energy" between the two countries, Bishop's office said today. It added: "The supply of Australian uranium will help India meet its rapidly growing electricity demand and improve the welfare of its people. The administrative arrangements have been signed and uranium exports can begin immediately." The long-awaited agreement was signed during a state visit to India by Australia’s prime minister at the time, Tony Abbott, in September 2014.

Both the UAE and India agreements set out strict conditions for the peaceful use, safeguarding and security of Australian uranium, Bishop's office said.

Australia now has 24 nuclear cooperation agreements in force, allowing exports to 42 countries plus Taiwan.

All of Australia's uranium production - over 5000 tU in 2014 - is exported under strict controls to ensure that it is only for civilian use. Australia is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but also requires any countries to which it sells uranium to put in place a rigorous bilateral safeguards treaty.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News