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Nuclear summer

Months ahead may prove vital to nuclear industry

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Summer is starting to bite and the difference this seasonal change makes to business can be seen in the flurry of last-gasp conference activity we’ll see this month.

There are four important utility industry events spread throughout May, covering the solar power industry, waste management, sustainability and nuclear power. Of these the most likely to make headlines is the GCC Nuclear Summit.

Hidden under the umbrella of utilities expansion, the summit may point the way forward for a local nuclear industry that has yet to fully emerge from the lengthy shadows cast
by hydrocarbons.

The delegate list has some high-profile names on it, but with such a sensitive and highly politicised subject to deal with, it will be interesting to see if they are bold enough to say anything substantive. There is a danger speakers may start reading from drab, corporate-style song sheets, spending several hours saying nothing at all.

Given the importance of early decision making, as the industry starts to take shape, it can ill afford to present empty nonsense on a public stage, in front of an audience that is keenly aware how important developments are.

As Abdelmajid Mahjoub, director general, of the Arab Atomic Energy Agency (AAEA) has gone on record saying: “The time has come for the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa to move forward with long due decisions for the installation of nuclear power plants for electricity generation and sea water desalination.”

As he rightly pointed out nuclear power programmes are complex things, but not insurmountable. In the short term, the region needs to import expertise, but in the long term it needs to develop its own knowledge base of well-qualified nuclear engineers.

The AAEA has an objective of having operational power plants by 2020. If this is to be achievable then there is an urgent need to develop proper management and coordination of the programmes within each country. Strong and sensible leadership will be required, both from government and the private enterprises that will have to be involved, if the nuclear industry is to get off to a positive start.

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