Power of Emirati women growing in the UAE’s nuclear industry

Originally published at https://www.thenational.ae/uae

Salama Al Ketbi is the senior project engineer the power plant site in Barakah in the Western Region. Christopher Pike / The National
Salama Al Ketbi is the senior project engineer the power plant site in Barakah in the Western Region. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Emirati women now make up 21 per cent of those working for the country’s nuclear sector.

According to a report by the UAE mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 50 women were employed in 2014 with more than 150 joining the following year.

The report marked the seventh anniversary of the mission’s establishment in Vienna, and Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the IAEA, said: “Women are an important component of UAE society and their contribution in the nuclear industry is just as important, demonstrating the integration of women in all sectors of the UAE.

“Our work has been to support and encourage UAE women’s participation in wider technical and nuclear science related activities within the IAEA framework.”

The women work between the power plant site in Barakah in the Western Region – where Salama Al Ketbi is the senior project engineer – and offices in Abu Dhabi.

Lady Barbara Judge, former head of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said that “the UAE’s nuclear project is one of the best yet undertaken because it has worked with the IAEA from its inception and employed the best people from around the world to help in the planning and building of its nuclear power plant”.

“It has provided opportunities for both Emiratis and women in general to progress towards leadership,” she said. “I am particularly delighted that every time I come [to the UAE], I hear about more women being promoted to very important jobs.”

According to the IAEA’s 2015 annual report, 123 nuclear safety and security tests and evaluations were held in the UAE last year.

“It reflects the UAE’s policy principles where nuclear safety and security are considered a priority,” Mr Alkaabi said. “The UAE benefits from engaging with the IAEA on implementing safety and security obligations, requesting peer reviews from the agency and benefiting from the global experience and discussion that take place at the IAEA on such important issues. An example is benefiting from lessons learned from the Fukushima accident [in Japan].”

The UAE planned five new national projects this year. These included strengthening the health sector’s national programme on patient radiation safety and dosimetry and boosting monitoring to protect people and the environment.

“The UAE is the first country in 27 years to build its first nuclear power plant,” said Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA. “The IAEA closely cooperates with the UAE on this enormous project. I was very much impressed to see the progress at the Barakah construction site and that the project leaders are taking care of the workers.”

The number of Emiratis working in nuclear-related projects has increased by more than 100 in the past year and more than 700 since 2010. More than 2,700 work in the nuclear sector.

Mr Alkaabi attributed the increase to greater interest across the country.

“Our objective is to increase knowledge and awareness.”

In a first, the IAEA’s International Conference on Nuclear Power, which takes place every four years, is to be held in Abu Dhabi next year.

“It provides a platform for government officials and policymakers to discuss trends, outlook and contribution of nuclear power globally,” Mr Alkaabi said.

“Choosing the UAE to host such a conference is a high recognition of the country’s efforts and contribution to the responsible development of nuclear power globally. It also demonstrates the confidence of the IAEA member states in UAE capabilities to conduct such a high level conference successfully. It is timely for the UAE as we are progressing very well.”