The United Arab Emirates says that it will develop peaceful nuclear power capability in a move that will make it the first state in the Gulf to build nuclear power plants.

Local reports indicate that the UAE Cabinet has approved a policy on nuclear energy that would see the country establish a Nuclear Energy Implementation Organisation (NEIO). It has made it clear that its programme will not involve uranium enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has recommended that the UAE set up a NEIO to implement the programme, the details of which will be fully published in order to promote transparency.

The UAE state news agency, WAM, has also reported that the country will sign the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, paving the way for additional scrutiny of its activities. It will also ratify a number of other IAEA non-proliferation agreements.

In January the UAE signed a nuclear co-operation deal with France’s president Nikolas Sarkozy, and French industrial companies Total, Suez and Areva said they are planning to propose the construction of a nuclear power plant in the country.

The UAE wants to pursue nuclear energy due to rapidly rising energy demand and the need to preserve its fossil fuel resources for export. Electricity demand in the country is rising at ten per cent per year.

The French proposal to the UAE will include two 1600 MW EPRs and fuel cycle products and services. Areva would be responsible for the nuclear islands and complete fuel chain, Total would provide its expertise in managing complex major industrial projects while Suez would contribute its expertise as a nuclear power plant operator.

The UAE wants to have an operational nuclear reactor by 2016.