The Human Element: Nuclear Power Development in the Middle East by Kevin Massy & John Banks

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Kevin Massy is Associate Director of the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security Initiative, where he manages research on international energy relations and domestic energy policy. He is also a for- mer technology journalist for The Economist and CNET.

John Banks is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security Initiative. He has worked as a management consultant for governments on energy issues, including power reform in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Guyana, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, the West Bank, Zambia, and several others.

Both hold Masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

"The enthusiasm for civil nuclear power in the Middle East comes at a time when many existing nuclear energy states are increasingly hesitant..."
 "The development of a nuclear power program is a substantial, long-term undertaking; according to the IAEA, states should consider the establishment of nuclear power to be a 100-year commitment from the point a policy decision is made to build a plant, through construction, operation, waste management, and decommissioning..."
"As pioneers of the next generation of civil nuclear energy nations, the UAE, Jordan, and Turkey have an opportunity to lead the way on the development of ‘soft infrastructure,’ particularly with regards to human resources..."


Most discussions on nuclear power in the Middle East in recent years have focused predominantly on Iran’s suspected weapons program. However, the region is also home to an- other major nuclear-related trend: it is likely to play host to the first new nuclear energy states of the twenty-first century. While many countries in the broader Middle East have expressed interest in civil nuclear power, three–the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, and Jordan–have set firm tar- gets for its implementation by the end of this decade. If they are to reach these ambitious goals and if they are to develop and deploy safe, secure, and sustainable civil nuclear power programs, these countries will have to overcome a range of technical, institutional, and, most importantly, human-resource related challenges.

Of the countries in the region, the UAE is by far the most advanced in the development of its program. Having made public its interest in civil nuclear power in a white paper in 2008, the country purchased four nuclear reactors the following year from a South Korean consortium and is aiming to have its first reactor connected to the grid in 2017, an extremely ambitious time frame for a newcomer nuclear energy state. Turkey has a long history of attempting to implement civil nuclear power, and its latest agreement with Russia for the provision of four reactors at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast is, by some counts, its sixth attempt at a commercial-scale program. However, there is good reason to believe that this time will be different for Ankara; the terms provided by Rosatom– the Russian state-controlled nuclear company that will finance, build, and operate the project–shield Turkey from a large amount of financial–if not operational–risk, and the Akkuyu project

is due to be operational by 2020. Like Turkey, Jordan has a public goal of de- ploying its first nuclear reactor by the end of the decade. Having reduced its shortlist of nuclear vendors to two bidders (Rosatom and a French-Japanese consortium led by Areva and Mitsubishi), the Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission plans to make its final decision in time to start construction of its first plant by the end of 2013. (purchase article...)