Iran's Neighbors Explore Nuclear Energy as Concerns Over Iran's Nuclear Program Grow

November 1, 2007

Publication Type: 

  • Policy Briefs

Related Country: 

  • Egypt
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Turkey

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) proposed to create a multinational consortium to provide enriched uranium to Iran and to other users of the material in the Middle East. Under the plan, first reported on the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) web site in November 2007, a uranium enrichment plant would be established in a neutral country outside the Middle East. GCC members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Iran rejected the proposal, which comes in the wake of increased interest in nuclear energy by Iran's neighbors. At the GCC summit in December 2006, members agreed to commission a "GCC-wide study [...] to formulate a joint program in the field of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in keeping with international standards and regulations." Since then, a number of countries in the region have pursued nuclear energy efforts, including:


  • The United States and Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday on peaceful nuclear cooperation.  According to a U.S. statement, Bahrain has agreed to forgo sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities, including the production of nuclear fuel, which “reflects Bahrain’s commitment to serve as a model in the region.”  Agence France-Presse  (AFP), 3-25-08.


  • Egypt will start taking bids for its first nuclear reactor, expected to be built in El-Dabaa, in February. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced plans for a nuclear reactor for peaceful power-generating purposes last year. The Associated Press, 1-26-08.
  • Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plants Authority has initiated studies to upgrade seismographs at the El-Dabaa nuclear power site, west of Alexandria. In addition, Egypt’s Nuclear Materials Authority is working in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency to assess uranium reserves at nine sites across the country, to determine the economic feasibility of extracting the uranium to make nuclear fuel. Karin Maree, MEED Middle East Business Intelligence, 1-10-08.

Jordan :

  • The United States and Jordan signed an agreement which will bring U.S. assistance to Jordan to help develop nuclear power reactors, fuel service arrangements, civilian training, safety programs, and nuclear energy technology. According to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, alternative energy sources are necessary for electricity production and water desalinization. Dale Gavlak, Associated Press, 9-16-07.


  • A memorandum of understanding was signed by Qatar and Electricite de France (EDF) to “discuss cooperation in the production of nuclear power and renewable – solar and wind – energies,” following French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s arrive in Doha. Agence France-Presse, 1-14-08.

Saudi Arabia:

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered Saudi Arabia the services of France’s Atomic Energy Commission to help explore the development of a civilian nuclear energy program.  Sarkozy made the offer to King Abdullah during his visit to kingdom.  Laurent Pirot, the Associated Press, 1-13-08.


  • Energy minister Hilmi Guler met with other ministers and representatives of 14 Turkish companies for preliminary talks on the construction of nuclear power plants over the next decade. The Turkish Atomic Energy Agency had earlier announced that the first power stations will be built in the Black Sea province Sinop. During the 1980s a General Electric study on building a power plant in Sinop was abandoned due to concerns over the region's seismic activity. The government intends to initially build a 100 MW pilot reactor and eventually build three power plants with a total 5,000 MW capacity. Construction work will commence in January 2007. Turkish Daily News, 4-14-06.

United Arab Emirates:

  • According to a government statement, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will establish a $100 million Nuclear Energy Implementation Organization “to evaluate the establishment of a peaceful nuclear program.” The government considers nuclear energy to be “an environmentally promising and commercially competitive option which could make a significant contribution to the UAE's economy and future energy security.” A memorandum on UAE nuclear policy issued on March 23 indicates that the country would not seek to produce nuclear fuel domestically, that it would work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and that it would offer joint venture with foreign investors to build and operate light water power reactors. Reuters, 3-25-08.
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and France have agreed on future cooperation on a peaceful nuclear program. France's Total also announced that partnering with Suez and state-owned nuclear reactor maker, Areva, it would develop two third-generation nuclear reactors in the UAE. Emmanuel Jarry, Reuters, 1-15-08.


Read reactions and analysis from around the world:

A study by the Strategic Studies Institute examines what countries might do to deter and contain Iran and what should be done to assure Iran's neighbors not to follow in Tehran's nuclear footsteps, edited by Henry D. Sokolski and Patrick Clawson, 11-05 (PDF, 1.2 MB).

Stimson Center Working Paper: The Arab Gulf States in the Shadow of the Iranian Nuclear Challenge, 5-26-06 (PDF).

Nicole Stracke at the Gulf Research Center (Dubai) writes in the Daily Star about the significance of the GCC decision to initiate a nuclear research program, 3-3-07.

Chain Reaction: Avoiding a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East, Staff Report to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2-08 (PDF, 1.44 MB).

WMD Insights survey's Arab states' response to Iran's nuclear program, "Hedging Through Engagement...and Nuclear Development," pg. 51-55

U.S. State Department announces U.S.-Bahraini Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Energy Cooperation, 3-24-08.