View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama Stands with UAE on Civil Nuclear Power Deal

President Barack Obama has supported a deal (20 May 2009) with the UAE in the face of considerable opposition from members of the US Congress.

Earlier in the month the arrangement had looked shaky. Torture allegations against a member of the United Arab Emirates’ ruling family threatened to torpedo the nuclear deal when a video of the torture was widely circulated to members of Congress and was resoundingly condemned by Democrats and Republicans.

Opposition Arguments in Brief:
* The UAE represents a proliferation risk e.g. Edward Markey, a Democratic Representative from Massachusetts said, "This is a country with a terrible track record on controlling sensitive goods."
* The human rights issue over the torture raised questions about whether the US should be entering into this deal with the UAE.

Affirmative Arguments in Brief:
* The deal was already agreed to in the final month (January 2009) of George W. Bush's administration.
* It diminishes the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
* It allows the US to enter into lucrative industrial deals in which US companies will be in the running for major construction work connected to the US$40 billion (Dh147bn) project. The Danny Sebright, president of the US Chamber of Congress's US-UAE business council said, "By moving this agreement forward, the president is creating the potential for thousands of new jobs for American workers."
* The deal would promote US defence and security.
* The deal would provide an important template for the region at a time when Iran's nuclear ambitions are a concern. It was noted that this would be the first nuclear plant in an Arab nation and that the UAE’s purpose in establishing a nuclear plant (due for completion in 2015) is to provide energy to overcome its electricity shortage. According to the official policy, the UAE will not develop fuel enrichment or reprocessing facilities – which can both be used for nuclear energy and weapons. The fuel for the nuclear reactors will be imported.

Obama takes on Congress with US Deal, FT, 21 May 2009.
Obama Approves Nuclear Energy Deal with UAE, The National, 21 May 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Nuclear power plant in Germany.