The future of nuclear power

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Rendering of atom with chemical symbols

Deep Decarbonization Initiative hosts CEO of Arab region’s most important nuclear energy company 

What role can nuclear energy play in decarbonization, and can it create regional energy security in the Middle East and beyond? 

On Feb. 7, David Victor, Center for Global Transformation Endowed Chair in Innovation and Public Policy at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, dug into these questions and more with Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). The public talk was organized by the Deep Decarbonization Initiative (D2I).

ENEC is the developer and operator of one of the world’s largest new nuclear power plants, located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is the largest and, currently, only operational nuclear power plant in the Middle East, offering a massive supply of clean energy in a region — much like the rest of the world — that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. During the chat, Al Hammadi discussed how the plant is a model for foreign investment and how this model can help transform the nuclear power industry in the future.

Victor, who visited the nuclear plant in November 2019, described it as a sophisticated solution  to the problem of producing a sustainable form of clean energy.  

“The plant has some very interesting attributes for us here on campus because its development is about a combination of technological innovation, changes in business practices, and navigating a complex political environment to make a project like this happen,” Victor said. 

Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UAE, particularly in the nuclear energy field, highlights the success of focused governmental policies, Victor said. 

“A plant like Barakah cannot be built in a vacuum —  it requires funding and knowledge from various sources across the globe,” Victor added. “The success of the UAE model at nearly every step of its development lays the groundwork for future expansion in the Middle East and beyond.”

During the talk, Victor and Al Hammadi discussed safety regulations in the nuclear industry; the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), which will be held in the UAE; and waste management.

Victor thanked Al Hammadi for the visit and candid discussion and added that “people are doing a lot of rethinking about the energy business, and part of that rethinking is learning more fully what’s worked in other parts of the world.”

Events like these highlight the global impact of scientific and policy-related research at UC San Diego. D2I and other university research initiatives are leading efforts to study the impact that applying academic research to real-world policy issues can have across the globe. 

“These events further foster an environment where students can interact across a wide spectrum of thought disciplines, allowing students to engage with academic, policy and business leaders and creating an incubator of innovation and in-person engagement,” Victor said.

To learn more about the plant, visit the ENEC website.

This event was co-sponsored by the Peter F. Cowhey Center on Global Transformation, the Center for Commerce and Diplomacy and the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and was held under Chatham House Rule. 

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Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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