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France ‘open’ to UAE investing in its nuclear plants

Bruno Le Maire said France was also ready to help the UAE develop its own nuclear power plants Reuters
Bruno Le Maire said France was also ready to help the UAE develop its own nuclear power plants
  • Economy minister visits Abu Dhabi
  • France plans 6 new reactors
  • $30bn climate investment fund

The French government is open to the UAE investing in the country’s nuclear power sector, its economy minister has said.

Bruno Le Maire spoke to journalists in Abu Dhabi ahead of talks with Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE minister of industry and advanced technology, and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive of investment fund Mubadala and chairman of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec).

Le Maire said he was going to discuss nuclear investments as part of wider talks on clean energy.



“France has made a choice to relaunch its nuclear energy by building six new reactors,” said Le Maire, who also signed a strategic partnership on artificial intelligence during his trip.

“If there is willingness from the UAE to invest in French companies, we are open.”

Earlier this year, Emirati officials approached several countries in Europe to gauge their interest in the UAE investing in their nuclear power infrastructure.

“I am thinking about the Orano or other private companies in which UAE investments would be welcome,” said Le Maire.

Orano is a nuclear fuel specialist that is majority-owned by the French government. 

Enec, which is owned by the ADQ sovereign wealth fund, is seeking to expand by taking minority stakes in the nuclear power infrastructure of other countries.

The UK is also looking for private investment in the Sizewell C large-scale nuclear project, which is being built in southeast England by French energy giant EDF.

UK ministers have been lining up Abu Dhabi investors for Sizewell C, The Times reported last year.

Le Maire said France was ready to help the UAE develop its own nuclear power industry.

Earlier this month, AGBI learned that Abu Dhabi has launched consultations for a second nuclear power plant. The proposal would double the number of reactors in the country to eight.

EDF was among the bidders to build the country’s first nuclear plant – the $32 billion Barakah facility – but the UAE opted for South Korea’s Kepco.

In September 2022, Enec signed an agreement with the French Nuclear Cluster CSFN to collaborate in developing the global nuclear supply chain.

“We have one of the best [nuclear] industries in the world,” said Le Maire. “If there is any possibility of extending co-operation in the nuclear field, we stand ready for that.”

In February, France and the UAE signed an agreement to create a “climate investment platform”.

The two countries are set to implement a $30 billion investment fund in clean energies.

“The time has come to improve the implementation of that fund between the UAE and France, and it will be one of the topics of the discussion I will have,” Le Maire told AGBI.

At Cop28 in Dubai last year, leaders from 21 countries, including the UAE, pledged to treble global nuclear capacity by 2050, to support the transition towards net zero. 

However, the International Energy Agency has highlighted nuclear power’s long lead times, high upfront costs and “often poor record of on-time delivery”.

The average time it takes to build a nuclear power plant is 7.5 years – before it is connected to the grid, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. This compares with around 12-18 months for solar plants.  

Francesco La Camera, director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, told AGBI last December that the significance of nuclear power in fighting climate change had been overstated. He said: “Nuclear does not serve the climate change agenda because it arrives too late.”

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