Nuclear Plants for Iran, Emirates, and Vietnam but not Pakistan

While nuclear power is taking one step forward and two steps back in the U.S. (see top two stories), several other nations, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, are lining up to build new—or their first—reactors.

Word has it that Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will be writing a letter this week to Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung designed to persuade him that Japan has the right stuff to build a nuclear power plant in Vietnam.

Though Japanese sources deny that the high-level high-touch approach is a reaction to a Japanese consortium’s loss of business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year to a South Korean consortium, competition for nuclear business globally has increased, making special efforts necessary. BusinessWeek reported that “South Korean President Lee Myung Bak visited the UAE the day before the project was awarded.”

Things are going more smoothly for Japan in Iran, where the Tehran Times reported on Tuesday that the country is ready to transfer construction of five nuclear power plants to Japan. “In a meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense Chairman Naoki Tanaka, Boroujerdi said that Iranian parliamentarians think that Japan should take decisions independent from the United States, IRNA news agency quoted him as saying on Thursday.”
Japan, which buys a lot of its oil from Iran, would be allowed to invest in various sectors of Iran’s economy, including transportation, oil, and gas, according to Iranian Parliamentary Foreign Policy and National Security Committee Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi.

The Economist noted last week that “Iran’s oil and gas industries badly need foreign money and know-how. A recent report by the research centre of the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, reportedly said that without substantial investment, Iran would be importing oil in 16 years at best, in eight at worst.”

Meanwhile, on Feb. 25, as part of a Middle East trip, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu signed an Implementing Arrangement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash. The arrangement will enhance cooperation on civil nuclear energy and nonproliferation and facilitate joint training, exchanges, and seminars in nuclear safeguards and nuclear management systems. The training programs will complement Emirati capacity on safety, security, and nonproliferation, while reinforcing U.S. support for a major regional ally, according to the Department of Energy.

However, according to Indian news sources, the U.S. Government has said that Pakistan won’t get a nuclear power agreement like the one inked with India in Oct. 2008. An anonymous senior administration official told the Press Trust of India that “The United States is working closely with Pakistan to help meet its growing needs. Nuclear power is not currently part of our discussions.”

Sources: BusinessWeek, The Economist, UN News Centre, Press Trust of India,, DOE, Tehran Times

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