Cablegate: Nuclear Power: Models and Anti-Models Abound At

R 250727Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. PARIS 1447
B. DOHA 456
C. CAIRO 1307


-- The Secretary's Special Envoy for Nuclear
Nonproliferation, Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, represented the
U.S. Government at the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
Nuclear Energy Forum November 10-11 and spoke forthrightly
about the safety, security, and proliferation risks that
accompany the deployment of nuclear power.

-- Although Iran,s Vice President was expected to address
the conference, the Iranians ultimately did not attend.
Nevertheless, Wolcott made direct reference to Iran in her
speech, citing it as the "anti model" to the open and
transparent way a country should approach nuclear power.

-- Qatari officials announced that Qatar was moving ahead on
studies of adopting nuclear power. Meanwhile, the draft MOU
on civil nuclear cooperation with the U.S. that would pave
the way for enhanced cooperation with Texas A&M is pending a
decision in the Prime Minister,s office.

-- Egypt announced that a draft law covering safety,
security, safeguards, and liability would be sent to
Parliament later this month, with finalization expected by
June 2009. The Egyptians also told Wolcott that a final
decision on Egypt,s nuclear construction tender would likely
be rendered by January 2009.

-- Oman and Kuwait are also studying adoption of nuclear


-- Participants at the conference made repeated references to
nuclear power,s benefits in combating climate change and as
a diversified source of energy alongside solar and wind.
Participants also stressed the importance of establishing
proper national infrastructures to support nascent nuclear
power programs.

-- Seldom mentioned, however, was the need to mitigate the
inherent proliferation risks associated with nuclear power.
Other nuclear suppliers used the forum to promote their
services with little emphasis on accompanying

-- Amb. Wolcott,s speech, which highlighted frankly the
importance of tangible commitments to the highest safety,
security and nonproliferation standards, was the exception
and therefore an important contribution to this conference.



1. (U) On November 10-11, Ambassador Wolcott participated in
the MENA Nuclear Energy Forum in Doha, Qatar, during which
she delivered a special address. Additional speakers
included representatives of
regional governments (the UAE, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, and
Yemen); multilateral organizations (Gulf Cooperation Council,
Arab Atomic Energy Agency, and the International Atomic
Energy Agency); and the nuclear industry (Thorium Power,
Areva, Electricite de France, Total, Suez-Tractebel, and
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited). The event was sponsored by
Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa),
Qatar Petroleum (QP), Thorium Power, Electricite de France
(EDF), and ACWA International, with additional support from
the Qatar Science and Technology Park.


2. (SBU) In her special address, "Nuclear Power: Benefits and
Responsibilities," Wolcott addressed the unique safety,
security, and proliferation risks associated with nuclear

power. She emphasized the "right way" of pursuing nuclear
power - carefully, transparently, and in adherence to
international nonproliferation, safety, and security norms -
as well as the advantages of civil nuclear cooperation to
help states pursue a responsible path.

3. (SBU) In response to last-minute indications that her
speech would be preceded by an address by Reza Aghazadeh,
Vice President of Iran and President of the (UN Sanctioned)
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, she portrayed Iran as the
"anti model" for how a state should approach nuclear power.
Though the U.S. was deeply dismayed that Iran had been given
such a prominent role at an ostensibly legitimate conference
on nuclear power, the Iranian delegation, without
explanation, ultimately did not attend the conference.
Wolcott,s full remarks are available at


4. (SBU) In addition to the United States, other major
nuclear suppliers in attendance included France, Belgium, and
Canada (all representatives of their state-owned industries).
In stark contrast to the U.S. call for a measured and
responsible approach to nuclear power, presentations from
Areva, EDF, Total, Suez-Tractebel, and Atomic Energy of
Canada Limited (AECL) promoted goods and services without
mentioning the responsibilities that accompany nuclear power.

5. (SBU) For example, Total informed the conference goers
that it was the "most diversified major in the Middle East"
and through its partnership with Areva and Suez was a great
candidate to oversee a build-own-operate contract for the
UAE,s nuclear power plants. A Scientific Advisor to Areva,
after explaining the numerous hurdles facing a state new to
nuclear power, assured the audience that "help was available"
via the IAEA, AFNI (the fee-based French government agency
recently established to assist emerging nuclear energy
states, see Ref A) or other consultants (such as himself).
AECL carefully described the advantages of continuous
refueling of its CANDU-6 reactor, while leaving unspoken any
reference to the proliferation advantages and disadvantages
associated with the operation of heavy water reactors.

6. (SBU) In the end, Wolcott,s was the only presentation
that emphasized the need to mitigate the proliferation risks
of nuclear power, despite the conference setting a few
hundred miles from Iran,s nuclear power plant at Bushehr.


7. (U) Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Qatar,s Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry, announced in
his address that Qatar was "reassess(ing) the role that
nuclear energy might play in (its) domestic energy mix."
Later in the program, the manager of Kahramaa (Qatar's power
and water utility), Yousuf Janahi, announced that an expert
committee, including representatives from Qatar Petroleum and
Kahramaa, has proposed a detailed study of the prospects of a
national nuclear power program. The primary uncertainties,
he noted, included the ability of Qatar,s electricity grid
to support a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant and finding a
suitable site for it. These and other questions would be
studied in detail with the assistance of an unidentified
outside consultant.

8. (SBU) On the sidelines of the Forum, Wolcott met with Dr.
Rashid Al-Kuwari, Director of the Radiological Protection and
Nuclear Energy Department of the Ministry of Environment.
Al-Kuwari explained that the Ministry of Environment,
recently formed to replace the Supreme Council for the
Environment and Natural Reserves, would act as Qatar,s
regulator for nuclear applications. This body would also
oversee the country,s progress towards nuclear power,
including the conclusion of technical cooperation agreements,
adoption of international conventions, and development of a
strategic plan. Separately, the Ministry of Energy (with
support from the Qatar Foundation) would oversee
nuclear-related research and training.

9. (SBU) Asked for the status of the nuclear cooperation
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the U.S. proposed in
May (Ref B), Al-Kuwari explained that it was now in the Prime
Minister,s office for a decision, expected "in ten days."
He appeared to take careful note when Wolcott encouraged
swift Qatari concurrence, since its entry into force (along
with finalization of Qatar,s safeguards agreement with the
IAEA) would allow Texas A&M to launch a joint nuclear
applications education program with Qatar University and
would pave the way for the founding of a formal nuclear
engineering program at Texas A&M/Qatar under the Qatar
Foundation (QF) at Education City in Doha.

10. (SBU) In a separate meeting, QF Science Advisor Tidu
Maini told Wolcott that everything was in place to launch the
Texas A&M program, but that nothing could commence absent
"the blasted MOU." He informed Wolcott that QF had just
declined a French-proposed training program that could have
begun immediately, since it preferred to build on existing
(non-nuclear) engineering programs at Texas A&M/Qatar. To
try and expedite the process, Maini proposed that Wolcott
send a letter to Sheikha Mozah, Chair of QF,s Board of
Directors and wife of the Amir, stressing the importance of
the MOU. Wolcott agreed, and a letter to be delivered on
November 18 (a previous letter from Wolcott encouraging
action was delivered on June 16, 2008).


11. (U) In his keynote address, Egyptian Minister of
Electricity and Energy, Dr. Hassan Younes, reported that
Egypt had established a Supreme Council for Peaceful Uses of
Nuclear Energy to explore ways Egypt can enhance its existing
nuclear infrastructure to support a nuclear power program.
He noted that a draft law covering safety, security,
safeguards, and liability would be sent to Parliament in the
new session beginning the week of November 16, and he
announced that Egypt would award its consultancy tender (to
cover site selection, project implementation, and
construction of its first nuclear power plant) by the end of
the year. Regarding civil nuclear cooperation, he noted that
the Egyptians were "looking for all the help we can get," but
also amenable to sharing its own experience with states just
beginning to develop nuclear infrastructure.

12. (SBU) During a bilateral meeting with Wolcott, Younes
elaborated that the draft law before Parliament would call
for the creation of a national nuclear regulator and should
be decided on by June of 2009. He conceded that the decision
on the consultancy contract could slip to January. In
response to Wolcott,s advocacy for Bechtel,s bid, he
energetically reassured her that the process is proceeding
"step-by-step and by the book" consistent with international

13. (SBU) With regards to the "working group" designed to
examine the rejuvenation of U.S.-Egyptian civil nuclear
cooperation (see Ref C), Dr. Khalil Yasso (First
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy)
explained that a proposal, which would establish points of
contact for assistance with (1) safety training and (2)
licensing, siting, and NPP operation, is now being finalized
and could be transmitted to the United States in about one
week. Consistent with this, Younes later stressed that
Egypt,s current focus was on regulation and safety.


14. (SBU) In his address to the forum, Chairman of the Omani
Public Authority for Electricity and Water Mohammed Al
Mahrouqi reported that nuclear power is "on the agenda" in
Oman, as are solar power and wind energy. That said, during
his bilateral meeting with Wolcott, he elaborated that Oman
is "still gathering information" and hoping that the IAEA can
visit to help Oman develop a strategy once its newly minted
IAEA membership is "implemented."


15. (SBU) On the margins of the forum, Wolcott met with Adnan
A. Shihab-Eldin, former OPEC and IAEA official and current
advisor to the Kuwaiti government. He informed Wolcott that
that Kuwait may soon announce the formation of a "high level
committee" with an executive office tasked to examine nuclear
power in Kuwait. He commented that, as a democracy, any
decisions on nuclear power in Kuwait will be slowed relative
to other states in the region with more autocratic
decision-making structures. (Note: Shihab-Eldin was not in
Kuwait during Wolcott,s visit in June - see Ref D. End

16. (SBU) Shihab-Eldin added that he had attended the GNEP
ministerial in Paris and that Kuwait likes what it sees so
far, but wants to learn more. He expressed a degree of
residual mistrust about the political objectives of the
partnership (asking to what extent it could lead to a change
in legal rights under the NPT). Speaking more generally, he
expressed support for initiatives designed to provide
reliable access to nuclear fuel, adding that he had
personally advised the Government of Kuwait to support the
Nuclear Threat Initiative proposal to establish an IAEA fuel


17. (SBU) During their bilateral meeting, Shihab-Eldin also
provided Wolcott some insight into the origins and status of
the GCC-wide effort to explore nuclear power. Based on his
experience as an early advisor to the effort, he reported
that the GCC approach was originally proposed by Qatar to the
remaining partners. Following initial resistance, the Saudi
king "put his weight behind" the decision to launch the
regional look into nuclear power. Following an
IAEA-supported pre-feasibility study, the GCC secretariat is
interested in putting together a full-time committee that
will work with a consultant on a full-scale feasibility
study. The individual efforts by GCC member states to
explore national nuclear power programs began when the UAE
made clear it would move ahead on its own in parallel with
the GCC effort.

18. (SBU) In his personal view, Shihab-Eldin said the GCC
could help "harmonize" national programs in the region,
though he advised against establishing a "GCC superstructure"
to try and oversee and regulate power plants in more than one
state. An example of the merits of a regional approach is
creating efficiencies to facilitate human resource
development or grid improvements. In addition, a regional
approach could help harmonize policy positions, such as in
the development of multilateral mechanisms for reliable
access to nuclear fuel.

19. (U) Ambassador Wolcott has cleared this message.


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