UAE set up nuclear power body, to name builder soon

ABU DHABI, Dec 23 (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates set up a body on Wednesday to run its burgeoning nuclear programme to produce electricity, which is expected to award the region’s largest-ever energy deals soon, state media reported.

A decree by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan established the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), the state news agency WAM said.

“ENEC is now in the final stages of negotiating with teams of contractors who are bidding to design, build and help operate the plants. Actual construction ... will commence in 2012,” WAM said, adding that a prime contractor would be chosen shortly.

The multibillion dollar contract is expected to be the largest ever energy contract awarded in the Middle East.

The UAE is the world’s third-largest oil exporter, but it is planning to build a number of nuclear reactors to meet an expected need for an additional 40,000 megawatts of power.

Bidders include a consortium of General Electric Co GE.N and Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp 6502.T.

Also bidding is a consortium comprised of Korea Electric Power Corp, Hyundai Engineering and Construction 000720.KS and Samsung C&T corporation 000830.KS.

A French consortium led by EDF EDF.PA and GDF Suez GSZ.PA, and including Areva CEPFi.PA and oil group Total TOTF.PA, is also bidding for the contract.

“We are confident that we can develop this technology safely and efficiently, and begin producing electricity for the homes, businesses and people of the UAE in 2017,” WAM quoted ENEC’s CEO Mohamed al-Hammadi as saying.

The United States formally signed a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Western-allied UAE last week, saying it could help prevent the spread of dangerous atomic technology.

Washington said the agreement contains unprecedented commitments that ensure the UAE will not use U.S. technology to develop a nuclear weapon or to help others in the region do so.

The deal comes as concern over Iran’s nuclear programme prompts Washington to discuss new sanctions on Tehran. (Reporting by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)