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Middle East nuclear arms race to begin, as United Arab Emirates to open world’s largest nuclear reactor?

UAE’s nuclear plant fuels fears of Middle East arms race World’s largest reactor seen as a threat to stability in highly charged region Nikkei Asian Review, NESREEN BAKHEIT and HIDEMITSU KIBE, Nikkei staff writers, MARCH 06, 2020 DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates will soon become the newest player on the nuclear stage as it prepares to open the Arab world’s first nuclear power plant.

State-run Korea Electric Power Corporation of South Korea is finishing work on four nuclear reactors in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi. Known as Barakah and owned by Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the plant is scheduled to go online later this month with a capacity of 5.6 gigawatts.

Barakah is likely to fuel fears in the already tense region, given the uncertainty over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal, and Israel’s lack of transparency over its nuclear program. Experts warn about more nuclear plants, increased uranium enrichment, and a possible nuclear arms race in what is arguably the most volatile region in the world……

the UAE’s neighbors are far from comfortable with the new plant.

Qatar expressed concern in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, stating that an accidental discharge of radioactive material from Barakah could reach the capital of Doha in under 13 hours.

There are also concerns that the facility could be attacked. Paul Dorfman, researcher at University College London, told Nikkei that the risk of a missile attack on a nuclear facility is not to be discounted. Yemeni rebels claimed responsibility for just such an attack that targeted Barakah while still under construction in 2017. ……

Egypt and Jordan have also jumped on board the nuclear bandwagon. Egypt is set to build four nuclear reactors this year in collaboration with Russia in the El Dabaa region west of Cairo. Lawmaker Ahmed al Tantawi is wary of his country’s nuclear program, stating that Egypt already has a surplus of electricity.

Jordan’s nuclear program, however, faces problems such as financing and how to mitigate potential terrorist attacks. There is also a shortage of water needed to cool reactors, as it is one of the world’s most arid countries.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are the most alarming. The country already has one nuclear power reactor at the Bushehr power plant and has two other Russian-designed reactors in the works. Construction on one began in November 2019 and is scheduled to finish in 2023. Another is still in the planning stage.

Tehran had curtailed enrichment under the nuclear deal, from which the U.S. withdrew in 2018. But the situation drastically changed in January after the U.S. drone assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani.

“Iran is still adhering to some of its duties under the JCPOA, such as International Atomic Energy Agency oversight,” Mohammed Marandi, political analyst at the University of Tehran, told Nikkei. “But with regards to research and development, the Iranians will no longer accept limitations due to the Europeans and Japanese [not cooperating],” he added.

The European Union tried to save the Iran Nuclear Deal after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew. Later, however, the U.K., France and Germany invoked the dispute settlement framework in the deal after Iran increased enrichment activities on the heels of Soleimani’s assassination. Even Japan tried to help by mediating between Tehran and Washington but ultimately failed to ease tensions.

Israel, which is notably not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, has a highly advanced military. The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a U.S. nuclear research entity, warns that Israel possesses nuclear weapons along with a large supply of ballistic and cruise missiles to deliver them. And there is no open consensus among experts as to the extent of Israel’s nuclear program.

Analysts say that U.S. policy is encouraging a Middle East nuclear arms race in two ways. First, the U.S. defense and nuclear industries view the region as a lucrative market, with Saudi Arabia being a key buyer. Second, the inaction of Europe, Russia and China to counter U.S. sanctions against Iran do not encourage Tehran to remain a party to the nuclear deal. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/UAE-s-nuclear-plant-fuels-fears-of-Middle-East-arms-race

March 7, 2020 - Posted by | politics international, United Arab Emirates, weapons and war

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