SYDNEY: Australia has signed a nuclear supply treaty with the United Arab Emirates in a deal Foreign Minister Bob Carr said would see the Gulf state become Canberra's first Middle Eastern uranium customer.
Carr and UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyam inked the deal in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, with the Australian minister describing it as a "step forward" for the Emirates' domestic nuclear power plans.
"Strict safeguards will apply, including for the safe handling and security of radioactive material, restrictions on re-export and guarantees of use for peaceful purposes," Carr said in a statement.
"These mirror arrangements in Australia's other nuclear cooperation agreements, with Canada, Republic of Korea, China, the United States and elsewhere."
No details were provided on volumes or costs.
The UAE announced this month that it would begin building two of four 1,400 megawatt nuclear power plants in partnership with a South Korean consortium, the first of which is scheduled to begin production in 2017.
It promised additional measures to strengthen nuclear security, following Japan's Fukushima reactor crisis which dented global confidence in the industry and prompted Germany to pledge a phase out of the technology by 2022.
Despite being a major oil exporter, the UAE has opted for nuclear, seeing it as a "proven, environmentally promising and commercially competitive" source of electricity, upon which it relies to produce all of its drinking water via desalination.
Australia does not use nuclear power but is the world's third-ranking uranium producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada.