Sultanate opted not to pursue nuclear power

06 May 2013
MUSCAT -- Oman's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that the Sultanate has opted not to embrace nuclear energy as a source of electricity, but will instead explore its benefits in the fields of science and medicine. Dr Badr bin Mohammed al Hinai, Sultanate's Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to IAEA, said the decision came in the wake of the Japanese Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.

Addressing the third Oman Power and Water Summit, which began at Al Bustan Palace -- A Ritz Carlton Hotel yesterday, Dr Al Hinai stated: "After the Fukushima accident and following the safety and security concerns of establishing a nuclear programme, Oman followed the examples of other countries such as Japan and Germany not to pursue a nuclear programme but instead, to benefit from nuclear power applications.

"Let us mention that Oman is also seeking alternative sources of energy in solar, wind and wave energy, due to the propitious climate and geography of the region." The three-day forum has been jointly organised by IQPC Middle East and Global Exhibitions and Conferences (GEC) in collaboration with the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW).

According to the official, the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which includes Oman, had voiced their intention at the 27th session of the GCC Supreme Council in Riyadh in December 2006, "to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and to consider developing nuclear technology as a joint programme for the region".

Following a resolution to that effect, the IAEA was approached in 2007 with a request to formulate a joint executive programme of action and to conduct a preliminary feasibility study for the use of nuclear power to generate electricity and water desalination for the Gulf countries. Member countries of the GCC have since adopted a varied approach towards nuclear energy projects, he said.

The Sultanate, for its part, has pursued a joint work programme with the IAEA which has since given rise to six Technical Co-operation (TC) projects, the envoy said. In addition to scholarships and training initiatives, a number of workshops have also been organised with the support of the Vienna-based UN body. One important spinoff of this co-operative arrangement has been the joint development of the IWAVE project together with the Philippines and Costa Rica, Dr Al Hinai said.

"This project will develop the national capacities for scientific and technical support through the use of sophisticated isotope techniques, together with other related techniques, for gathering and aggregating the required data with a framework that enables experts and specialists to perform precise evaluations of water resources, specify their qualities and their best utilisation," he explained.

More recently, the Sultanate, represented by the Ministry of Health, had approached the IAEA to study the 50 per cent jump in the cancer incidence in the GCC -- a trend linked to the ageing population and lifestyle changes. The study, dubbed the IAEA imPACT Review Mission, was conducted in January this year to assess the Sultanate's cancer control capacity and needs.

"The imPACT report sent to the Ministry of Health provides recommendations to the Omani health authorities so as to better address the cancer burden. In the long term, and through such state-of-the-art nuclear power applications, it is expected that people diagnosed with cancer will see their chances of survival increased and can enjoy a better quality of life," the official stated.

In his presentation, Dr Al Hinai also traced the development of nuclear energy programmes by fellow GCC members, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The UAE has already launched work on a $20 billion programme that will see four commercial nuclear power reactors brought into operation by 2020. Saudi Arabia too has plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years with a cost of approximately $80 billion, he stated.

© Oman Daily Observer 2013


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