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Nuclear energy to power UAE-Romania trade growth

Romanian president Klaus Iohannis meets Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai Wam
Romanian president Klaus Iohannis meets Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai
  • UAE and partners help finance small modular reactor
  • Trade between two countries increased 82% in 2022
  • 381 Romanian companies registered in Dubai

Dubai International Chamber has set up a Romanian Business Council as part of efforts to build on non-oil trade between the UAE and the Eastern European nation, which exceeded $1 billion last year.

The council will promote the interests of Romanian businesses and Romanian-owned UAE-registered companies in Dubai.

It will also support Dubai’s presence in Europe and attract new investments from the region.

The number of Romanian companies registered in Dubai was 381 at the end of last year.

Trade between the UAE and Romania, the 12th largest country in Europe, increased by 82 percent from 2021 to 2022.

UAE non-oil exports to Romania reached $66 million in 2022, up 79 percent, while re-exports were worth $120 million, an increase of 297 percent. 

The country is Romania’s biggest GCC trade partner and Romanian foreign direct investment in the UAE stood at $34 million as of 2021.

In that year, the UAE’s investments in Romania reached $180 million, focusing mainly on medicine, beauty products, technology, agriculture, food security, ports and logistics.

DP World is building new infrastructure at the Port of Constanta including a new roll-on/roll-off terminal. The intention is to turn it into a cargo and vehicle centre on the Black Sea, which is a vital gateway for trade into Eastern Europe.

Genoveva Turcu, president of the Romanian Business Council, said its mission is to support Romanian and UAE businesses by fostering innovation, collaboration and knowledge-sharing. 

Nuclear power is expected to be at the centre of this growing relationship after the UAE joined the US, Japan and South Korea in committing up to $275 million towards nuclear energy in Romania.

The announcement in May was the first major nuclear energy initiative to be supported under the Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (Pace).

Support from the UAE and partners will go towards deploying a small modular reactor (SMR) in Romania. SMRs use fission to create heat that generates energy like traditional nuclear reactors, but are a much more compact design. 

Pace was launched at Cop27 in November 2022 and aims to catalyse $100 billion in financing, investment and other support to deploy 100GW of clean energy capacity by 2035. 

Dr Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE minister of industry and advanced technology and president-designate of Cop28, described the Romanian agreement as a “landmark moment” for Pace. 

“This project will replace an existing coal plant and offer reliable, clean baseload energy,” Al Jaber said.

“It will also help to reduce emissions in heavy-emitting industrial sectors, and support low-carbon, sustainable economic development.”

Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, managing director and CEO of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), said it will provide expertise to support the project “to advance the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies in Romania”. 

Enec also signed a memorandum of understanding with Romania’s Nuclearelectrica for bilateral cooperation within the industry.

The deal provides both parties with a framework for collaboration on the development and expansion of nuclear energy programmes in the UAE and Romania, as well as within Central and Eastern Europe.

Enec is the company behind the Barakah plant near Abu Dhabi, in which three of four units are commercially operating.

The fourth is set to go online soon to support the ambition to generate 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity while preventing the annual release of 22.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions. 

The plant is the largest source of clean electricity in the wider Arab region, generating electricity equal to billions of dollars of natural gas each year, which can be diverted to higher value uses.

Nuclearelectrica CEO Cosmin Ghita said the company has investment projects in progress worth an estimated $13 billion as part of Romania’s target to have renewables make up 34 percent of electricity consumption by 2030.

Romanian energy minister Sebastian Burduja last month said the UAE could help finance two planned new reactors with an expected cost of $7 billion.

Nuclear energy is recognised by both countries as an important factor in accelerating decarbonisation of the power sector and other heavy industries.

The potential of closer clean energy ties was also highlighted by UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan when he met Klaus Iohannis, president of Romania, in March.

During the talks, which took place at Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed said climate change was a common denominator with both countries seeking to achieve net zero by 2050.

The two sides also announced agreements on education and cybersecurity. UiPath, a software company founded in Bucharest, is to set up its headquarters in Dubai.

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