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Letter to Editor at NYT about UAE Nuclear Energy Program

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher, NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

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  • Aug 2, 2020

Letter to the Editor, New York Times

Reference  NYT 08/01/20 – U.A.E. Becomes First Arab Nation to Open a Nuclear Power Plant. The launch is raising concerns about the growing number of nuclear programs in the volatile Middle East.

LETTER-TO-THE-EDITORThis article by NYT reporter Vivian Lee @VivianHYee skates past important facts to present a point of view that equates commercial nuclear reactors with nuclear weapons. It fails to put the UAE nuclear program in context and neglects to report on the actions of other nuclear states, like Russia, in the region.

The UAE has signed an agreement with the U.S. under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act which removes the possibility the country will enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The article fails to mention the UAE’s rigorous nuclear safety program to license its reactors implemented by an independent regulatory agency.

The reactors at the Barakah site in the UAE are shielded by four foot thick containment structures which are impervious to the kind of attack launched by the Houthi rebel group.

UAE Barakah Units 1 & 2: Image: World Nuclear News

Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to build nuclear power plants have been downsized from a plan to construct 16 1000 MW units to just two 1400 MW units. The reason is the original plan became unaffordable due to the low price of oil.

It is true the Saudi government has stated it will not sign a ‘123″ agreement similar to the one for the UAE leaving the U.S. with little influence over its plans. That country could easily get all the nuclear reactor technology it needs from Pakistan or China.

The article neglects to point out the Russians have plans to build four 1200 MW commercial nuclear reactors for Egypt. The article neglects to report that the Russians are also building four similar commercial nuclear power plants in Turkey and two of them are already under construction.

The New York Times would do a service for its readers by updating the current news report to present a more complete picture of the outlook for nuclear energy in the region

# # #

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 3, 2020

Thanks for providing more important information on the topic, Dan. Do you think the omissions were intentional, were a factor of the author not knowing those facts, or maybe even them not trusting that the facts were true given preconceived notions regarding nuclear energy?

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Aug 3, 2020

My view is that the newspaper may have assigned the reporter, who is based in Lebanon, for her proximity to the UAE, but clearly she lacked subject matter expertise about nuclear energy issues.  If the newspaper had assigned reporter with more knowledge, and experience, we might have seen a better report.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 3, 2020

That makes sense, Dan. The energy industry widely is at such an important crossroads right now that all media outlets need to have the relevant stories covered by people with experience and expertise (and as this community demonstrates-- there are plenty of those experts out there!). It would be great to see some pressure to force outlets to more actively seek out these expert opinions. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 4, 2020

Dan, you might contact Eduardo Porter at the Times. Porter is one of the few reporters there who has had pro-nuclear pieces published in the past. As far as I'm aware the most recent was How Renewable Energy is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course in 2016. Since that time, with a few exceptions, anything that smells pro-nuclear doesn't make it to print.

I believe I have his email address, if you'd like it PM me.

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Aug 17, 2020

Hi Bob, that article was 2016, it was out of date then, - a lot has happened since and we should not be shackled by the dead ideas and fears of yesterday.

Dan Yurman's picture
Thank Dan for the Post!
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