Welcome to the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) Podcast Network! Here we speak with leading experts who are working to anticipate, analyze, and address core systemic risks to security in the 21st Century. Our third episode focuses on the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Many consider the UAE a nascent nuclear energy success story in a largely oil dependent and politically strained Middle East. In this episode, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty speaks to nuclear experts Joyce Connery, a Board Member and former Chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (joining the podcast in her personal capacity), and Seth Grae, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Lightbridge. Connery and Grae (both members of CSR’s Working Group on Climate, Nuclear, and Security Affairs) delve into the UAE’s nuclear energy progression, global governance mechanisms, and the U.S. role in the shifting international nuclear power market.
The region surrounding the UAE faces complex security challenges. Recent attacks on oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz underscore the country’s strategic location. Although the government announced a May 2019 attack was state-sponsored and the United States suspected Iranian intervention, the UAE stopped short of identifying culprits. This is understandable given the region’s highly charged geopolitical environment.
The UAE is also one of several states in the Middle East that will be navigating the intersections of climate and nuclear issues. Some of its Gulf neighbors are actively exploring nuclear energy, namely Saudi Arabia which is building a small research reactor and exploring a larger-scale nuclear power program. Iran, of course, has a long and controversial nuclear history, and nearly all countries in the region have stated their interests in pursuing nuclear energy.
As with other countries in the region, the UAE is facing sea level rise and extreme heat waves (along with the entire MENA region) in the coming decades. The country is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change in large part due to its highly developed coastal areas. This episode highlights the ways in which the UAE has prepared its Barakah nuclear plant for climatic changes.
This podcast also emphasizes the importance of international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure transparency and information sharing when countries develop their nuclear energy sectors. Global nuclear energy norms and standards are essential for ensuring safety, especially during extreme weather events and in preventing and preparing for security risks. The UAE has taken these factors into consideration, and has committed to not engage in enriching or reprocessing activities that could raise proliferation concerns.
This podcast also explores how the United States is falling behind in the international nuclear suppliers market as Russian and Chinese nuclear energy projects are increasingly financed by their respective governments. This could lead to a drastic shift in the global nuclear order at the same time that climate change impacts and other trends are challenging international security.
CSR’s Podcast Network will regularly feature exclusive dialogues with leading security and international affairs experts. Stay tuned for cutting-edge discussions on the world’s existential and strategic risks, and the ways in which these challenges are converging.
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This podcast series contributes to CSR’s goal of fostering thoughtful and respectful discourse on systemic risks to security in the 21st Century. We deliberately host guests with diverse experiences and perspectives. As such, the views expressed on the podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position of CSR.