The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is to become the first Arab country to benefit from nuclear power, according to the US State Department. Secretary Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to sign the nuclear cooperation pact later this year, which will pave the way for the country opening its first nuclear facility. The UAE has been, however, forced to agree to numerous conditions, including a number of annual inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as a thorough ban on building nuclear enrichment plants.
If all goes according to plan, the Emirates will have atomic energy way sooner than Iran, which is feared for its intentions by the Western world. Officials in UAE say that the nation expects to have its first plant by as soon as 2017, and companies in the US, the UK and France are already competing for the contract to build it. However, that's only the first in a row of six plants to be built in the country, and each of the investments is estimated to cost around $5 billion.
The Emirates seek to produce some 25 percent of their national energy requirements from alternative sources, such as nuclear power, in the short-run. Authorities say that their bid comes as a consequence to reports that show that the country will nearly double its power consumption by as early as 2020. And seeing how they don't want to be caught on the wrong foot, the Arabs are seeking to enact a plan that would eliminate the threat of massive black-outs and other power shortages.
There is, however, opposition to the initiative. Some Congress members in the US say that the construction of nuclear reactors in UAE will only add “volatility” to the region, and that the entire near-east could go up in flames, if the situation gets out of control. Nevertheless, proponents of the idea argue that there is no reason to panic, as long as the IAEA verifies the nuclear stockpile of the Arab nation on a regular basis.