China’s Growing Energy Relations in the Persian Gulf: The Role of Nuclear Power

According to Al-Monitor, the UAE has signed three agreements with Chinese nuclear energy organizations, which experts say is just the beginning of achieving the country’s and the region’s nuclear power goals.

According to Al-MonitorThe Emirates Nuclear Power Corporation, working to develop nuclear power in the United Arab Emirates, has signed memorandums of understanding with the China Nuclear Power Operations Research Institute, China National Overseas Nuclear Corporation and China Nuclear Power Corporation. and this signing comes months before the UAE hosts this year’s COP28 Global Climate Summit, amid its strategy to convert 6% of its energy needs to nuclear power to achieve net zero by 2050.

Robert Mogelnitsky, senior fellow at the Gulf Arab Institute in Washington, told Al-Monitor that China will play an important role in light of the UAE’s seriousness in diversifying away from oil.

He added that this would cause China, a major oil importer from the Middle East, to change its relationship with the region.

He continued: “As oil and gas producers in the Middle East move from traditional energy exports to cleaner and cleaner energy, China’s role as a supplier of equipment, technology and industrial knowledge will become more prominent.”

The momentum in the energy partnership between the UAE and China is expected to continue and benefit both parties.

He continued, “Economic entities on both sides will benefit from this cooperation, and I also believe that there is a way that government agencies can also benefit from these deals,” adding that the Gulf countries will also seek to partner with other countries to achieve their nuclear goals.

Nuclear power development in the Middle East and North Africa region is still in its infancy, with Iran, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia voicing their nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia, which has been interested in nuclear power for decades, is also seeking bids to build its first nuclear power plant, according to a 2023 budget statement released in February.

In the same month, the Kingdom signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation with France, focusing on the development of nuclear power.

It is worth noting that in 2020, after a three-year delay, the United Arab Emirates connected to its network the first multi-unit nuclear power plant in the Arab world, which was built by Korea Electric Power Corporation.

The Baraka Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi began operating the third unit in February 2023 and when the fourth unit is completed, it is expected to provide 25% of the country’s electricity and this will reduce carbon emissions by 21 million tonnes. , which is equivalent to 3.2 million vehicles on the road every year, according to the UAE government.

The UAE is the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to actively use nuclear energy after Iran and Israel. The 123 Agreement with the United States at the end of 2009 established the legal basis for civil nuclear trade between the two countries.

According to the country’s embassy in Washington, this allowed the UAE to develop its civilian nuclear program, and also made it possible for American companies to participate in their nuclear programs.

The most recent agreements have opened a new chapter in achieving the goals of nuclear power in the region with a wider range of partners.

For his part, Ahmed Zuhair, a consultant at Dubai-based Qamar Energy Company, explained that the recent China-brokered normalization agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March of this year helped open the door to these recent deals.

He added: “These nuclear agreements with the UAE and China emerged against the backdrop of the Saudi-Iranian deal and could have been negotiated in the mediation deal that took place in March,” citing the nuclear agreements as an entry point into the region for China, which, according to he said, is implementing more than 53 energy projects, nuclear and about 20 other projects under construction.

He pointed out that China sees these nuclear deals with the UAE as a diplomatic benefit as it increasingly seeks to present an alternative vision of the US presence and regime in the Middle East in the energy sector.

Source: Al-Monitor

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