Wednesday, April 16, 2014


“Nuclear technology is going to be a very important in the future and I think it is wise (for Arab Gulf states) to have a good number of people
Luis E. Echavarri
specialized in the nuclear field,” said Luis E. Echavarri, Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Agency, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In an exclusive interview to the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies (ECSSR) website, the nuclear expert stressed that nuclear technology would not only be feasible in the wake of rising price of oil and associated gas, but that it’s uses in desalination and production of hydrogen are already under study.

Q. How economically viable would the production of prospective nuclear energy be in the Gulf region.

Answer: Well let us put it this way. When the price of oil is more than 40 to 45 dollars per barrel, taking into account that it affects the price of natural gas, nuclear becomes competitive. Therefore, at this moment I can say that the kilowatt hours produced by nuclear energy is very attractive economically.

Q. How much time does it take to develop a peaceful nuclear program for power generation?

Answer: Once you take the decision of building a nuclear program, you need ten years as a minimum to start producing electricity. During that period, you have to build human capabilities and infrastructure capabilities. Of course, you have to train people for the operation of the units. This could be one of the key factors for the future. However, time goes by very quickly and to develop people is important in the nuclear field, independent of your plans to develop a nuclear power plant in the immediate future. I think nuclear technology is going to be a very important technology in the future, due to its applications in many fields, and I think it is wise to have a good number of people specialized in the nuclear field.

Q. How can the OECD help the GCC, in case the latter decides on a prospective peaceful nuclear program?

Answer: The OECD pays attention to member countries. We do not have a mandate in the nuclear field of helping non-member countries. However, we have good cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the IAEA has the mandate of helping the countries. All of our work is passed through the IAEA, so you can benefit of our work through the IAEA.

Q. You have just spoken about the peaceful applications in many fields. Would you like to elaborate on that?

Answer: There are energy applications as well as non-energy applications. Non-energy applications of nuclear power are well-known, such as in medicine and many industrial uses. However, for energy applications nuclear power is mainly used for producing electricity, but are also very useful in desalination, and in production of hydrogen. These are some of the things we are studying.

Q. When your organization is spreading the peaceful uses of nuclear technology to many countries, how do you contain nuclear weapons proliferation in the world?

Answer: We are not directly involved in non-proliferation activities but we are affected by non-proliferation. In fact, my organization cannot collaborate with countries, which are not members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). We do not deal with such countries.

Q. In your address to the conference, you pointed out that at a very early stage one can find out whether a country is aiming for a peaceful use of nuclear technology or whether it is aiming for weaponization stage. What are the telltale signs in this regard?

Answer: For countries that do not have nuclear programs and are planning to develop new nuclear programs, if they go for enrichment or are interested in developing techniques of reprocessing, which normally comes in later, it is a clear indication that their intention is not peaceful, because from the technical and economic point of view it makes no sense.

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