Gulf states to finalise nuclear plan studies in 18 months


"I expect the required studies to be completed within 18 months," Ahmad Khatayba, who is in charge of nuclear applications in Qatar’s higher environment council, told AFP.

"We will set out the terms of reference of the studies in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and then go to international expert firms to compile detailed studies featuring implementation plans … that meet the Gulf states’ needs for 30 years," he said.

Khatayba was speaking at the end of a three-day meeting in Doha of a Gulf Cooperation Council working group in charge of preparing detailed studies on the GCC plan to acquire civil nuclear technology announced in December 2006.

GCC members Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates "will effectively start cooperating with the IAEA in March through joint meetings and seminars," Khatayba said.

Khaled bin Ghanem al-Ali, secretary general of the Qatari environment council, said it was premature to say when the first GCC nuclear stations will be built, as this would depend on the studies.

During its meeting in Doha, the GCC working group examined the viability of the use of nuclear technology in producing electricity, desalinating water and other civilian pursuits in light of a preliminary feasibility study drawn up by the IAEA in cooperation with experts from the oil-rich Gulf bloc.

The GCC monarchies decided to develop a joint nuclear technology programme for peaceful uses amid concerns over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and growing regional clout.

But a GCC official sought on Tuesday to dispel the impression that their drive to acquire nuclear energy was a reaction to Iran’s nuclear activities.

"GCC states act as sovereign states, not in reaction" to what others do, Abdullah al-Hashem, the bloc’s assistant secretary general for development affairs, said without naming Iran.


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